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Peer pressure, teens and crime: A clear link

When examining why people commit crimes, one of the reasons -- though not typically thought of as a primary one -- is that they face peer pressure. In other words, someone else convinces the person to commit a crime that he or she would not have carried out otherwise.

This is most dangerous when the person being pressured is relatively immature. One study found that the level of immaturity connects directly to the impact level of that negative influence.

This puts teens at an especially great risk. One professor of psychiatry said that the level of immaturity he usually observes in people from 16 to 19 years old can make them more aggressive and impulsive. This can then make peer pressure more effective, and they can be convinced to carry out criminal activities.

For example, a 35-year-old man may not care if someone dares or pressures him to commit a crime. He may be more likely to make his own choices. A 16-year-old boy, however, has a vastly higher likelihood of giving in to peer pressure in order to go along with the group. His aggressiveness may lead to reckless decisions, while his impulsiveness can make him more likely to commit crimes without thinking through the true ramifications.

Many factors often contribute to an arrest, and peer pressure is just one of them. While perhaps more common with young people, older adults may also be swayed by friends or acquaintances. It is very important for those who do face criminal charges to remember that they have a right to a fair trial.

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