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I am delighted to be a part of this Symposium on Law and Adolescence. My talk today is about adolescent development and juvenile justice policy. Specifically, I will focus on why a legal regime that is grounded in scientific knowledge about adolescence and the role of criminal activity during this developmental period is better for young offenders and for society than the contemporary policy, which often pays little attention to differences between adolescents and adults.

My talk is based on a book on juvenile justice policy I am currently writing with Larry Steinberg, a developmental psychologist who is a leading expert on adolescence. For about ten years, Larry and I have worked together on an interdisciplinary research network sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation – the Research Network on Adolescent Development and Juvenile Justice. The purpose of the Network has been to examine how scientific knowledge about adolescence and juvenile crime can usefully inform policy and practice, to determine where there are gaps in that knowledge, and to develop and conduct research studies that can fill those gaps and inform policymaking in this area. The book offers a framework for youth crime policy that we have developed through our work in the Network. Our thesis is that scientific knowledge about adolescence and youth crime is critically important as a foundation for satisfactory juvenile justice policy and that (for the most part) this premise translates into a legal regime that deals with young offenders as an intermediate legal category of persons – neither children nor adults.


Criminal Law | Criminal Procedure | Juvenile Law | Law