Juvenile crime is highly problematic. These are formative, important years for teens, and simply putting them in jail can disrupt their education and throw the rest of their life off track. Infractions due to poor choices and spur-of-the-moment decisions at 16 years old can follow someone for the rest of his or her life.

As a parent, you may worry that your teen will commit a crime, that you will get that phone call you’ve dreaded for years. Every night that your teen gets home safe and sound, you feel exceedingly grateful.

To understand the problem and perhaps counteract it, it is important to look at the reasons that young people commit crimes. Why does a teen decide to break the law? Below are four potential reasons:

1. Poor parenting and negligence

This is not to put the blame on you, but you simply need to know just how important your role is as a parent. Teens who do not learn the difference between right and wrong or the importance of following the rules at home will take that mindset with them. If they do not respect your authority when you see them constantly, do you really expect them to respect the authority of law enforcement officers? Parents must stay active in their children’s lives and teach them how to make wise, careful choices at a young age.

2. Pressure from friends

Peer pressure seems so alien to adults, who have moved past it and would never make life-altering choices based on what someone else wanted. But, to a teen, fitting in is incredibly important. It’s not even that all teens want to be “popular.” They just want to feel like they have friends and they belong. When their friends encourage illegal behavior, they may act against their better judgment.

3. Substance abuse

When teenagers get into underage drinking and illegal drugs, it often leads to a host of other crimes. These could range from petty vandalism to drunk driving to theft. Sometimes, they just make bad choices while under the influence. Other times, the substance abuse turns into addiction and they break the law to fuel that addiction. Of course, substance abuse itself is also illegal at their age.

4. Lack of education

Some teenagers simply do not understand the real ramifications of their actions. Those with a poor education may also find limited ways to make money, and economic factors can push them into criminal decisions. When teens are involved and invested in school, getting a good education and spending their time on productive activities, they commit fewer crimes.

Your options

If you do get that call, make sure you and your teenager understand all of your legal defense options. This isn’t where you hoped to be, but that does not mean there’s nothing you can do.

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