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Psychology: Psy246 - Brain Development

A guide to resources on psychology. Choose from the tabs below to locate specific kinds of resources.

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The Prompt for Brain Development

Research indicates that the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain deeply involved in assessing risks and making complex judgments, is still developing during the adolescent years. Using this research, students will explore the implications of this related to their participation in “adult” activities.

Keywords

"brain development" AND teenagers

Neuroscience AND teenagers

teenager AND "risk behavior" AND neuroscience

 

 

Web Resources

image of prison
 

Court Decisions

  • Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, decided in 2005, dealt with a 17-year-old defendant sentenced to the death penalty in Missouri. The Court ruled that imposing the death penalty on juveniles who commit crimes when they are under age 18 violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. The decision effectively banned the juvenile death penalty nationwide. The Court considered differences between juveniles and adults, finding that juveniles have less impulse control, increased susceptibility to peer influence, and lack of good reasoning making them less culpable than adults. 

Click here for more information about Roper v. Simmons from Salem Press' Bill of Rights eBook.

  • Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48, came before the Court in 2010. Sixteen-year-old Graham was convicted of attempted armed robbery and armed burglary. After his release, he violated his probation and was then sentenced to life without parole. The Court ruled that sentencing Graham to life without parole for committing a nonhomicide offense constituted cruel and unusual punishment for juveniles. The science supporting this ruling builds off Roper, noting huge fundamental brain differences between adults and children. Juveniles’ actions are less likely to demonstrate negative moral character, unlike adults, creating less possibility of repeated offenses and better rehabilitation outcomes.

Click here for more information about Graham v. Florida from Salem Press' Bill of Rights eBook.
 

  • In 2012, the Court ruled in Miller v. Alabama, 132 S.Ct. 2455, that juveniles cannot be subjected to mandatory life without parole. Fifteen-year-old Miller committed a homicide and was given a life sentence without parole. The Court decided sentencing should be conducted on a case-by-case basis, taking factors such as the juvenile’s developmental stage and education into account. Three scientific facts supported the Court’s reasoning: children lack maturity, which can be seen in their increased impulsivity and risk-taking; children are more vulnerable to negative influences from their environment or peers; and children’s moral character is not fully developed, proving that their actions are not necessarily “evidence of irrebuttable depravity.” Roper 543 U.S., 569.  
  • In J.D.B v. North Carolina, 131 S.Ct. 2394, decided in 2011, 13-year-old J.D.B was questioned by police and school administrators in his middle school about recent robberies. He was not read his Miranda rights or told that he was free to leave and eventually confessed to the robberies. The Court ruled that age is relevant in determining police custody for Miranda purposes and that children have a different perception of the legal system. Because they are easily influenced by their environments and peers, children do not understand the legal system and police custody in the same way that an adult would. 

Case information from the American Bar Association