There is biological evidence for immaturity in teens, according to Laurence Steinberg, a psychology professor at Temple, who is recognized for his expertise on the psychological development during adolescence,
Using the metaphor, “teenagers have brains with a good accelerators, but weak breaks,” Steinberg dubs the weak breaks, and the frontal lobe of a teenager, analogous. Additionally, Steinberg draws the connection between violence and impulsive action, while attributing a lack of impulse control to the teenage brain.
“A lot of violent behavior is not planned,” Steinberg said. The frontal lobe in the brain of a teenager is underdeveloped, and consequently Steinberg said teenagers are more likely to be violent, because most acts of violence in teenagers are impulsive.
The work of Steinberg and other professors was cited in a 2005 Supreme Court decision to expel capital punishment for offenders under the age of 18. Steinberg said the age 18 is essentially nefarious, because research shows that development continues until a person’s early 20s.
“Law is not on the basis of what science tells us to do.” Steinberg said. “Older is better, but it would prove difficult to change the law. No one would approve of changing it to 19 or 16.”
Steinberg said methods of punishment should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis based on whether this is the offender’s first offense, and whether it was a violent crime or not.
Rayan Chatila can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org