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Researching Adolescents' Judgement and Culpability (From Youth on Trial: A Developmental Perspective on Juvenile Justice, P 325-343, 2000, Thomas Grisso and Robert G. Schwartz, eds.)

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Cauffman; Laurence Steinberg
Date Published
19 pages
This chapter discusses recent psychological research relevant to the issue of adolescent culpability, outlines a number of areas in which further research is essential, and describes the methodological challenges associated with such studies.
Recent psychological research indicates that regarding important aspects of psychosocial functioning that affect judgment -- such things as self-reliance, the consideration of future consequences, and self-restraint -- adolescents, even those who are 17 or 18 years old, are not equivalent to adults. More and better research is needed, but research to date makes it apparent that a great deal of development continues to occur during middle and late adolescence within the realm of judgment and decision making. In the future, researchers interested in studying the development of culpability must examine judgment under conditions that more closely approximate the situations in which real-world decisions are made. This will require expanding the list of questions asked in this research beyond those that pertain to age differences in logical reasoning. Five sets of questions are particularly important: How is judgment affected by psychosocial factors, especially those believed to develop in significant ways during middle adolescence? How is judgment affected by emotional factors such as mood or psychological state? How is judgment influenced by the context in which decisions are made? How does judgment vary as a function of subject matter? Does judgment improve with experience? Methodological issues for future research pertain to ecological validity, self-report measures, and sampling issues. 33 references