To understand teen crime, it’s important to look not just at the statistics, but at the reasons that it happens. Many crimes are minor — drinking while underage, shoplifting items that cost less than $10, etc. — and parents may be perplexed as to why their teen would engage in such behavior in the first place.

There are many potential reasons, but let’s take a look at peer pressure. What role does it play?

Experts do note that peer pressure is very strong for teens. Often, adults assume that mistakes teens make are because they’re not good at making decisions in a rational manner. They cave to peer pressure because of these underdeveloped skills.

While that may have an impact, it’s worth noting that these experts say craving social acceptance is vastly more important than poor decision-making skills. Teens may know that what they’re choosing is illegal and risky. They may know that it appears, to the outside, to be a poor decision. It’s not that they do not grasp the reality of the situation.

The reasoning is just that the craving for acceptance is stronger. They want to be liked. They want to be respected. They want to be part of the group. They’ll intentionally make poor choices to accomplish those goals.

This is why many minor crimes make little sense. A teen with $20 in their wallet steals a $10 item. Why do it? They don’t actually care about the item. They just wanted to “prove themselves” to their friends.

If your teen faces charges after an incident like this, you need to know what defense options you have to help protect their future.