All around the world, children who commit crimes are being tried, and often times they are being tried as if they were adults. There has been a very big debate in science and with the people convicting kids of crime on whether kids should really be so harshly punished for what that are doing. While the kids are doing things that are bad, should they be tried and charged they way they do when they are still developing and aren’t fully finished growing yet?
When people are growing and maturing, their brains are also growing and maturing. It doesn’t all happen at once which is a cause for younger people changing emotionally. Our brains continue to grow until we are fully grown. When our brains are growing like this, according to Laurence Steinberg, we can’t always be taken responsible for our actions. Steinberg also said that because these brains will be changing later on that trials with young people should be revisited once they are adults. In this article, written by Emily Kaiser, she talks about 6 facts about the crime with children. One of her facts is that when kids are in groups with their friends they make more risky decisions. In this section she talks about Steinberg's driving simulation that he did with kids. He would take one kid and have them do this driving game and then he told him that his friends were watching him and had them do the simulation again. What they saw was that he crashed more and did worse things when his friends were “watching”. They saw that this was because when you’re with your friends, a part of your brain is stimulated which is the same part of your brain that makes it seem like you are being rewarded. Especially at this age when reward is such a big thing to teens.
Another side of this is that even though the brain of these young people are still developing, if they are going to commit horrendous crimes they need to be tried. These kids know that the crimes that they are committing are illegal and wrong so why not be tried for what they are doing? By the age that kids are allowed to be going out and doing things on their own they should have learned all of this, and the changing of their brain shouldn’t have anything to do with it.
Elizabeth S. Scott from Columbia University along with some other professors, did a study about this in 2007. They wanted to find out how the brain of a child or young adult differed from that of an adult and what it had to do with the likeliness of being reckless and doing things that they shouldn't do. They got people from the ages of 10-25 and studied their brains while doing different activities in different moods and emotional states. They also looked at what the brain function was like under the pressure of peers around them. The study is not complete yet but it is in the process of being completed. Research like this is helping change the minds of people who believe that children should be so harshly punished for crimes they commit.
From the studies that have been conducted and that are still being conducted, we can see that children are not 100% responsible for every action that they do when their brains are still developing. There are many kids who are in jail with life sentences. What will happen to these children? And how do we know if a child is really responsible or if it had something to do with their brain developing?
1. Kaiser, Emily. "6 Facts about Crime and the Adolescent Brain." Minnesota Public Radio News. N.p., n.d. Web. 07 June 2016. <http://www.mprnews.org/story/2012/11/15/daily-circuit-juvenile-offenders-brain-development>.
2. "Criminal Justice and the Juvenile Brain." Columbia Law School. Columbia University, 10 July 2013. Web. <https://www.law.columbia.edu/media_inquiries/news_events/2013/july2013/scott-brain-research>.