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Indirect peer pressure may cause minors to commit crimes

Peer pressure has often been linked to crimes, especially among young people, who tend to be more likely to respond to it. However, a study suggests that simply being close to someone else who has committed a crime may make young people more likely to do so. This is thought of as indirect peer pressure, as they more or less respond to the environment in which they live.

The study calls this spatial contagion. It looks at physical distance between living spaces more than anything else. A total of 7,166 young men were part of the study, ranging from 13 years old to 19 years old.

These individuals had already broken the law and then been sentenced. The research team simply looked at an area that extended for one kilometer around each young man's house, searching for more criminal activity. They also watched the young man who was being studied to see if he'd break the law a second time.

What they found was that, if he did break it again, the amount of criminal offenses in the area -- committed by other young people living within that radius -- would then spike. The amount of illegal activity would outpace the general rate for crimes committed by juveniles.

This appears to be a phenomenon that impacts everyone equally. Researchers controlled the study for things like family history and race, and they still found the same results.

It's clear that many different factors can influence young people to do things they may later regret, and it's important for these individuals to know what legal options they have to help protect their futures and break the cycle.

Source: Regis.edu, "Peer Pressure and the High-Crime Neighborhood," accessed March 14, 2017

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