Christina Rivenbark & Associates ATTORNEYS AT LAW

Teenage crime: Violence, environment and peer pressure

Often, parents can't believe that their children broke the law. Some deny it even when facing obvious proof. Others become outraged at the suggestion that a son or daughter would have gotten into criminal trouble.

It's easy to assume that parents blindly back their children because they love them. That may be true to an extent, but it's not the only issue in play here. The reality is that the parents cannot believe that this happened because the child they know is very different from the child other people know.

Violence as a disease

Take violent crime, for instance. New research suggests that it's not isolated. Instead, it acts just like a disease. It spreads. As one report put it: "Adolescents are far more likely to commit a violent act if a friend has already done so."

Researchers believe that a teen's environment influences them dramatically. They see what their peers are doing, they decide what is socially acceptable or even expected, and then they model their own behavior to fit.

This general idea holds true with other activities, as well. A child who spends time with friends who smoke may pick up smoking. Teens who have friends with pierced ears want to get their ears pierced. They even start to dress and act the same.

Violence and crime are no different. When teens see these examples around them, they follow suit. Their environment molds them into people their parents do not expect because their parents are not with them in that environment.

Intentional pressure

On top of that, there is always the chance that a teenager will experience direct, intentional pressure to act a certain way. They're not just learning from their environment. Peer pressure is quite real, especially when teens feel like they don't fit in or they worry about losing their social standing.

For instance, a teen whose friends engage in underage drinking and shoplifting may experience direct pressure to engage in these activities. Even if the parents taught their child that underage drinking and shoplifting are wrong, and the teen would never do that around them, they may decide to go through with it to save face in front of their friends or peers from school.

Again, that may be why it is so hard for parents to understand why their child broke the law. They see a very different child at home, where those pressures and those influences simply do not exist.

Defense options

When a teen gets arrested, parents worry about their future, their college options, their career path and much more. It is crucial to understand how to protect that future and what legal defense options exist.

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