The themes of belonging and division are of critical importance to Hinton's work and adolescence, in general. The idea of separate groups or cliques of people is a reality of adolescence, as well as trying to assimilate and being "an individual in a group." These dynamics are experienced by characters in Hinton's work as well as by adolescents, in general. The constant balance between remaining part of a group as well as remaining loyal to oneself is another theme that is present in both the novel and the lives of adolescents. Pony Boy constantly examines his own sense of self and how this coalesces with his group identity. This is an element of adolescence in much the same way. Finally, the issue of economic reality is something faced by adolescents. The notion of a "higher" and "lower" class is embodied in the division between Greasers and Socs. To a large extent, this same division permeates adolescent social connection in terms of latest fashion, gadgets, clothing, and "poor" versus "rich."
In the book "The Outsiders" the story is atypical of many of the issues that adolescents experience. On the very first page of the book the main character and narrator, Pony Boy, talks about wearing his hair longer because of the way the others Greasers were theirs. Fitting in is very important to adolescents. The styles that adolescents chose to wear tend to reflect the social group in which the adolescent is involved.
"but I am a greaser and most of my neighborhood rarely bothers to get a haircut."
Another issue that adolescents have to face is violation of curfew and arguments with family members when he/she gets into trouble. When Pony Boy fell asleep at the park and did not get back home on time his big brother Dary, who had his deceased parent’s parental role, was angry and they quarreled.
"Where in the heck have you been? Do you know what time it is?"
On page 164 Pony Boy sneaks a cigarette knowing he will get into trouble if he gets caught.
Adolescents have to make decisions about doing schoolwork. On page 173 Pony Boy puts off doing his homework and gets into an argument over his assignments.
"What's the sweat about my homework I shouted?" (173)
The boys have an interest in females at the movie and try to sit with them. Adolescence is a time of discovering the opposite sex. They are also ready to brag about getting to sit with the girls
"Would we have ever something to tell the boys?"
"We had picked up two girls, and classy ones at that." (25)
There are many aspects of adolescence that the boys experience. Johnny, Pony Boy, and the other greasers are looking for community and support with one another. They are also the social rejects, the outsiders, and they join to gather to provide each other with support and acceptance. Pony Boy also is trying to find his own place in the world. While he is a member of the Greasers, he is also very different. He is smart and likes to read and write. He has to come to terms with his own self identity separate from the group.