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Should juvenile accused of crime be treated as an adult?

There is no question that every child is different and has his or her own personality and character traits. These sometimes change as a child grows and their brain develops. According to one psychology professor there are several reasons why juveniles who find they are facing criminal charges should be handled differently than they are now.

The first is that the part of the brain responsible for among other things, appropriate social and complex cognitive behaviors, is not yet able to efficiently communicate with other parts of the brain. In fact, the prefrontal cortex may not reach its full capacity to communicate until an individual is in his or her mid-20s.

Second, teens who are so often social, are prone to engaging in more risking behaviors when they are in a group setting than when they are not. At least one test conducted at a university found that teens who knew that their friends were watching them, doubled the number of risks that they took.

Next, the ability for the brain of a teenager to stop an impulsive behavior is not strong. This ability continues to develop throughout the teen years and may not be fully developed until that individual is in his or her 20s.

Because the brain of a juvenile is continuing to mature throughout his or her teens and early 20s, it makes sense that their behavior may be positively influenced by adults who help them to have self-control by guiding them away from behavior deemed to be reckless or risky. Similarly, the rate of development of a teen brain may be why 90 percent of juveniles who are lawbreakers ultimately do not end up being criminals.

With these factors in mind, some, including this professor believe that the way teens are treated in the justice system should be changed. Since in many situations they are engaging in stupid adolescent behavior, he believes that having a juvenile justice system that is clearly separate from the adult system, is a good idea.

Source: Minnesota Public Radio, “6 facts about crime and the adolescent brain,” Emily Kaiser, May 15, 2013

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