At the recent 8th Annual Models for Change National Working Conference, one of the panels presented on Neuroscience, Adolescent Development, and the Law: Pathway for Juvenile Justice Reform. The panel’s presentation was summarized by Gary Gately in Experts: Brain Development Should Play Bigger Role in Determining Treatment of Juvenile Offenders for the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The result of the panel discussion, in general, was that the increasing body of research on adolescent brain development must be one consideration in changes to the juvenile justice system practice and policies.
One of the presenters has routinely emphasized that there are limits to the usage of brain development research in individual cases, and that brain development is part of the whole story that includes environmental influences and experiences. Reporting on adolescent brain research has resulted in common myths or over-generalizations, including that adolescent behavior is irrational or deviant, adolescents are incapable of making rational decisions because of their immature prefrontal cortex, and that all adolescents experience “sturm und drang.” See The Teenage Brain: Self Control, by B.J. Casey and Kristina Caudle, 22 Current Directions in Psych Science 82 (2013) for detailed information.