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Why do young people break the law?

On Behalf of | Aug 27, 2023 | Juvenile defense

When young people break the law, it can have a major detrimental impact on their future. A criminal record could prevent them from going to college or getting employment. Even spending a short time in jail could make them more likely to drop out of high school. Parents understandably often worry about the long-term ramifications of a young person’s brush with the law.

But, with these things in mind, parents may not be fully able to understand why their child decided to break the law in the first place. The ramifications feel very obvious to them, as an adult. No two people experience the world in exactly the same ways, which means that motivations for breaking the law range from necessity to boredom. With that said, the following two considerations tend to influence the majority of cases in which a young person has committed criminal wrongdoing.

Poor judgment and brain development

First and foremost, young people often have poor judgment. They may not really understand the ramifications of their actions. They know that what they are doing is illegal, but they haven’t thought about what jail time would actually look like or the impact on their future.

Part of the reason for this is just a lack of brain development. The process of human brain development does not end until someone is around 25 years old. Someone who is in their teens may feel that they are very grown-up and wise, but their brain could still be a decade away from full development, and they may have poor decision-making skills as a result.

Peer pressure

Another thing to consider is the impact of peer pressure. When young people are around others who are going to break the law, they are more likely to do so themselves. In some cases, they will try to do this to prove themselves to the group or to try to fit in with their peers.

Interestingly, one study found that simply being around others who have been convicted of criminal activities can increase the odds that someone will engage in criminal activity themselves. As the study put it: “Results suggest that increasing the proportion of peers who engage in criminal activities by 5 percent will increase the likelihood an individual engages in criminal activities by 3 percentage points.” This suggests that teens may simply get the idea to break the law from seeing it happen around them, whereas someone who is not exposed to such activity is less likely to engage in such actions themselves.

Criminal defense options

No matter why a young person has broken the law, parents are likely well aware of the future ramifications if their child is convicted of wrongdoing. They need to know exactly what legal steps to take and all the options they have to fight for their child’s future. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to start.