MacArthur Foundation Research Network
Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice
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doc Network Issue Briefs
These issue briefs were created to give an overview of juvenile justice topics and related Network research. Go

docAdolescent Decision-Making and Youthful Culpability
The blameworthiness of juvenile offenders, relative to their adult counterparts, received little attention from courts or legal commentators for much of the 20th century because a foundational premise of the juvenile court has been that juveniles lack criminal responsibility. Only in recent years, as young offenders are increasingly tried and punished as adults, has the importance of this issue become clear. Go

docAdolescents' Competence to Stand Trial - MacArthur Juvenile Competence Study
Adolescents' adjudicative competence (competence to stand trial and make competent decisions as defendants) has been one of the major topics of study for the Network. Our concern about the need to investigate youths' capacities as trial defendants arose from a reform in juvenile law during the early 1990s. Go

docAssessing Juvenile Psychopathy: Development and Legal Implications
In determining whether to waive a juvenile to adult court, judges typically consider the youth's potential for future violence and "amenability to treatment" in the juvenile system. The caseload of adolescents who are formally processed by the juvenile courts has increased by 75% over the past decade, and, as a consequence, there is now a great demand for assessments of juveniles' "treatability" and risk for future violence. Go

docBiases in Judgments of Juvenile and Minority Suspects in Pre-Interrogation Interviews
During 2003, a number of high-profile stories were reported involving juveniles who confessed to police to crimes they did not commit. In all cases, police had presumed guilt in the absence of hard evidence as a prelude to interrogation. Typically, this presumption is formed during an initial interview in which trained investigators analyze the suspect's verbal and nonverbal behavior. Go

docImpact of Juvenile vs. Adult Sanctions Dual Sanctions Study
Over the past decade, legislatures across the nation have enacted a variety of laws and policies to "criminalize" delinquency by adjudicating and punishing adolescent offenders as adults. This issue has once again been taken up by the Congress in bills designed to "get tough" on youth crime, and to provide fiscal incentives for states to follow suit. Go

docLegal Socialization of Children and Youth
Adolescents' experiences in their interactions with police and other legal actors subtly shape their perceptions of the relation between individuals and society. These experiences influence the development of adolescents' notions about law, rules, and agreements among members of society, and about the legitimacy of authority to deal fairly with citizens who violate society's rules. Go

docLongitudinal Study of Serious Juvenile Offenders - Pathways to Desistance Study
Much recent debate in the juvenile justice system has focused on what to do about serious adolescent offenders. Within the last decade, almost every state has changed its statutes to allow for easier transfer of these adolescents to adult court. Some commentators have questioned whether a separate juvenile justice system is even warranted, given its dismal record at controlling or deterring juvenile crime. Go

docParental Involvement in Judicial Proceedings
The legal system makes two key assumptions about juveniles and their parents. First, the system presumes that parents help ensure competent decision making by juveniles. Second, the system presumes that juveniles have the capacity to make decisions about exercising rights and parents are helpful in that decision process. These two assumptions share the following components: that parents have adequate knowledge, that parents can communicate that knowledge effectively to juveniles, and that parents and juveniles share an identity of interests. These presumptions have not been empirically studied and result in an overarching research question that asks whether parents ensure competent decision making by juvenile defendants? Go

docPerceptions of Youth Culpability
The Network is currently conducting two studies designed to investigate the extent to which adults' perceptions and attitudes about the culpability of young offenders are influenced by the age, race, and appearance of maturity of the offender. On the practical side, this research may provide information about the biases that different groups of people may have toward juvenile perpetrators, and it may illuminate the sorts of information that should be provided to legislators, legal professionals, and mental health personnel who do competence evaluations. Go