Juvenile Brains and Criminal Behavior

When young people get into trouble, there is no shortage of blame to go around. Law enforcement will often blame parents, the kid will likely make excuses and the cycle could go on endlessly without any answers being found. What really causes juveniles to engage in criminal behavior? Professionals could answer this question in a number of ways, but in short, teens’ stage of mental development can make impulse control difficult if not impossible. To better understand this, consider the following three facts about young people and their vulnerability to impulse.

1. Negative influences can have a big impact

Studies have long confirmed the disproportionate role peer influence plays in young people’s decisions. As teens form their identities and struggle to fit in, actions and suggestions that may otherwise raise red flags might seem appealing. A single friend who is a bad influence, for example, might persuade a teenager to steal when she or he otherwise would not. The teen’s desire to fit in and maintain the friendship could make him or her vulnerable to criminal behavior.

2. Teens may have attitude challenges

In addition to the challenges of combatting negative influences, teens must regulate their attitude in spite of impulse to the contrary. Between the ages of 16 and 17, teens are more likely to act aggressively, take unnecessary risks and react poorly to stress. Each of these can be a problem in and of itself, but when a single teen is dealing with all of them at once, the result can be a susceptibility to impulses they would not otherwise have to deal with.

3. Frontal lobes are still developing

Psychologists have determined that the primary cause for these problems is young people’s continually developing frontal lobes. This part of the brain is responsible for impulse control and decision-making. As a teen, these lobes of the brain form throughout adolescence and help improve decision-making skills, but they do not finish developing until around 25. Simply put, a young person does not have the mental capacity of an adult, and this may be the cause any of juvenile criminal behavior that occurs. They are particularly vulnerable to exploitation because of this, which may be another contributing factor to poor behavior.

If you or your child has been involved in a criminal situation involving a teen, it may be best to explore your legal options. Hiring an attorney can help you do so and put the unfortunate incident behind you and your child.

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