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Adolescent brains not capable of adult reasoning

Sometimes teenagers do dumb things. Sometimes they even do awful things. It is easy from the perspective of an adult to be baffled by acts of indiscretion on behalf of teenagers. However, it is very important to remain cognizant that teenagers and adults have different brains. Therefore, an adult's judgment and thought processes are markedly different than that of a teenager's in New Jersey.

An expert on adolescent brain development advocates how critical it is to consider this when handing down punishments to juveniles convicted of crimes. This man says, "No one is saying that kids who commit horrific crimes shouldn't be punished. But most in the scientific community think that we know that since this person is likely to change, why not revisit this when he's an adult and see what he's like?"

The expert offers a variety of scientifically backed evidence that shows that teenagers and adults think very differently:

  • Teenagers are much more impulsive and seek instant gratification.
  • The reward center of a teenager is more active in group settings, meaning juveniles could be more likely to commit a crime in a group setting.
  • The prefrontal cortex, an area of the brain that dictates behavior, is physically changing and growing into the mid-20s.

Further, this expert says a vast number, as much as 90 percent even, of juveniles that commit a crime do not go on to become adult criminals. This is important to bear in mind. Often, individuals will be quick to look at a juvenile that committed a crime as having a flawed character, but that simply isn't true. The juvenile often has a still-developing brain and reasoning process rather than a flawed character.

Most typically, it is the case that juveniles charged with a crime are good kids that made a bad decision. It is important to address any juvenile charges because in some instances convictions can lead to consequences that can hamper a bright future.

Source: MPR News, "6 facts about crime and the adolescent brain," Emily Kaiser, Nov. 15, 2012

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