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Maturity of Judgment in Adolescence: Psychosocial Factors in Adolescent Decision Making

NCJ Number
Law and Human Behavior Volume: 20 Issue: 3 Dated: (June 1996) Pages: 249-272
L Steinberg; E Cauffman
Date Published
24 pages
This article examines research and theory on three psychosocial aspects of adolescents' maturity of judgment: responsibility, temperance, and perspective.
There is insufficient research on the developmental course of responsibility in adolescence and young adulthood to draw definitive conclusions about age differences in maturity of judgment that may be related to age differences in responsibility. More research is needed before any practical application of this work can be drawn. Although more research on the development of temperance is needed, preliminary evidence from several disparate literatures -- on sensation-seeking and impulsivity, on moodiness, and on the impact of pubertal hormones on mood and behavior -- point in one general direction; adolescents probably have more difficulty in controlling their impulses than do adults; however, there are too few studies of temperance during late adolescence to draw firm conclusions about the approximate age at which individuals become noticeably less impulsive or less inclined to seek excitement. There is considerable evidence that individuals become less egocentric in their perspective during adolescence. Based on studies of formal reasoning, social perspective taking, and moral reasoning, research shows predictable, gradual growth in these domains between childhood and mid-adolescence, but there are few apparent developmental differences beyond that point. A discussion of future directions includes a discussion of research methodology. 89 references