Teen Brain Science: False Promise?

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The movement to excuse teenage transgressions based on developmental neuroscience may be unwise, according to the Notre Dame Law Review.  Terry Maroney, Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University Law School, examines the current science, the legal factors, and the role teen brain research is playing in juvenile courts and state capitols where laws are made.

Maroney says, “the fascination with adolescent brain science has begun actively to percolate through legal theory, advocacy and lawmaking.”  She cites the  Supreme Court ruling to abolish the juvenile death penalty as an example.

But Maroney warns that neuroscience only makes generalizations about teens, and does not deal with the individual child or the child’s intent to commit a crime. Nor does it factor in the role of schools, families, economic conditions, mental health care and other issues that play a role in child development.

She suggests that teen brain science should be considered one source among many for judges and lawmakers to use when making legal decisions about adolescents as a group.

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