How Does Peer Pressure Affect Juvenile Delinquency?

Delinquency is a legal term used to describe criminal behavior carried out by a juvenile. Delinquency is usually the result of escalating inappropriate behavior at home, school or in the community. According to, parents view delinquency as excessive or violent fighting with siblings, defacing or destroying property, and stealing money from parents and other relatives. Juvenile delinquency is often caused or made worse by peer pressure from friends or other teens.

Teen Relationships

When children become teens, they go through periods when relationships with peers are more important than any others, including those with parents, siblings and teachers. When teens listen to their friends more than they listen to experienced adults, they often find themselves in compromising situations. Teens want to fit in with their peer groups, and this desire to be accepted can cloud good judgment. This is especially true for teens who are facing difficult challenges at home. According to Joseph A. Wickliffe from the Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute, girls are especially at risk from the influence of peers when they lose their emotional connection with parents or other family members 1.

Social Maturity

By their very nature, teens are less mature than adults. Although great variety exists from one teen to the next, for the most part, teens are incapable of making good choices all of the time. Add in pressure from peers to try things your son or daughter knows you would not approve of, and you have a dangerous mix of immaturity and peer pressure. According to Temple University psychologist Dr. Laurence Steinberg, adolescent thinking mirrors that of their parents by age 16, but teens are still less likely to base decisions on future consequences than adults.

Brain Maturity

Research shows that the adolescent brain is less developed than the adult brain. According to Dr. Laurence Steinberg, the brain is still maturing during the teen years, with reasoning and judgment still developing into the early to mid 20s. This means that not only are teens susceptible to peer pressure because of their lack of social maturity, but it indicates a biological reason teens do not always make good choices where their friends are concerned. Even small amounts of negative peer pressure during these years when the brain is still developing can lead at-risk teenagers to delinquent behaviors.

Family Challenges

Teens who have difficult family situations often turn to their friends to replace lost relationships. Peer groups can give a teen a sense of belonging during times of family stress, like separation, divorce or death. If the group a teen becomes a part of is involved with drugs, alcohol or violence, he is more likely to take part in these activities. According to Dr. David Fassler, psychiatry professor at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, teens are more likely than adults to act impulsively or on instinct when they are confronted with stressful or emotional decisions, and are less likely to fully understand the consequences of their actions.