Ongoing adolescent brain development may contribute to juvenile crimes

As any parent can attest, the actions of juveniles often seem inscrutable. The way that the adolescent brain develops can cause juveniles to make decisions that simply do not make sense from an adult viewpoint. Unfortunately, this may put adolescents in Lehighton at a higher risk of making questionable decisions that can have life-changing consequences, such as committing juvenile crimes or admitting to acts that they didn't even commit.

Impactful neurological differences

ABC News reports that the parts of the brain that oversee judgment, logical reasoning and impulse control continue developing past the teenage years and into the early 20s. Due to this ongoing development, teenagers aren't simply more inclined to give into their impulses; they are physically less able to resist them or appreciate the consequences of giving in.

As a result of this and other neurological differences, teenagers tend to exhibit the following traits and behaviors more than adults do:

  • Aggression and mood swings
  • Risk-taking behaviors
  • Susceptibility to outside influences, such as stress or peer pressure
  • Ignorance of a decision's long-term consequences
  • Inability to identify alternative courses of action

Experts note that these factors are not an excuse for inappropriate behaviors; however, their impacts should be considered when juveniles are charged with crimes or punished following convictions.

False confession risk

These same neurological differences can put adolescents at risk for making false confessions. According to The Wall Street Journal, juveniles are more likely to focus on short-term rewards, rather than long-term consequences; thus, a juvenile accused of a crime may confess in the hope of ending the interrogation or securing release from jail, without thinking ahead to other consequences. Adolescents are also more susceptible to pressure or manipulation from law enforcement authorities.

The Wall Street Journal stated in 2013 that exonerations involving false confessions are three times more prevalent among teenagers than adults. False confessions played a role in 38 percent of the exonerations of people younger than 18 that were recorded in a database of 1,155 exonerations. The risk of false confessions is something that prosecutors and family members of juveniles should recognize and work to mitigate.

Steep consequences

Sadly, the consequences of juvenile crimes can be serious, even when crimes occur due to poor judgment or a lack of impulse control. This fact is highlighted by a recent case involving a 10-year old Pennsylvania boy who allegedly confessed to killing a 90-year old woman. CNN states that the boy became angry with the woman and hit her, but he did not intend to kill her. The boy now faces adult charges of criminal homicide, which is a felony.

When juveniles are charged with crimes, all of the factors that contributed to the alleged crime or confession, including the state of the juvenile's own brain, should be taken into account. Parents who have a child facing criminal accusations should consider seeking the help of a legal representative who is familiar with the state's juvenile justice system as well as research into crucial differences in the juvenile brain.