Juvenile Delinquency, Competency, and Neurological Assessments

For my first post, I thought it would be cool (and so did Tyler) to share some research I have been involved with during my first two years at UND (and will be writing up for publication soon, I hope!).

Essentially, Dr. April Bradley and Dr. Roni Mayzer at UND were awarded a grant for this research. The study was investigating a variety of factors related to juvenile delinquency. We wanted to compare two groups of juveniles – those who were considered “status offenders” and those considered actually “delinquents”. Status offenders (or unruly juveniles) are juveniles who are in trouble for engaging in behaviors that are only illegal because of their status as a juvenile. This would include crimes such as smoking/possessing cigarettes, drinking/possessing alcohol, truancy, running away from home, being an unruly juvenile, etc. Delinquency crimes would be anything that would illegal for anyone, regardless of age (e.g., theft, assault, illicit drug use/possession, sex offenses).

Basically, we gave them a large battery of tests and surveys, and the psychosocial factors came out to be irrelevant in general. However, results did show some neurological differences and differences on the competency measure (MacCAT-CA). Unruly juveniles (status offenders) had much better planning, reasoning, and overall executive function scores. Additionally, unruly juveniles had better MacCAT-CA scores, suggesting they would better be able to use an attorney’s services appropriately, understand court proceedings, and be able to reason through what is going on in the court. The unruly juveniles also had better verbal comprehension scores than the delinquent juveniles.

If you have any questions about this, feel free to contact me!

-Mariah

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  1. Hey Mariah, a few questions:

    Interesting that there weren’t any differences in psychosocial factors between the two types of juvenile offenders. But how do these same factors compare to juvenile non-offenders?

    How does the MacCAT-CA measure exec. functioning? (I knew I should have taken Dr. Holmes’ neuropsych. testing class).

    And finally wasn’t there a newspaper article about all of this in an ND paper. Did you make recommendations for the justice system?

    • mariah922
    • February 24th, 2010

    The unruly juveniles were more likely to fall into the “normal” range on psychosocial factors, but not significantly so.

    The MacCAT-CA is not a neuropsych test actually. It is called the MacArthur Competency Assessment Tool – Criminal Adjudication. Essentially, it is simply used to determine someone’s ability to be competent to stand trial. The delinquent juveniles did not fall within the “competent” range, suggesting trying them in court as adults is not justified because they can NOT use legal counseling effectively and may not be able to reason through options they have in court (e.g., take a plea, go to to trial, etc.).

    Finally, for the article in the Grand Forks Herald, we did not make specific recommendations other than we hope the courts begin to recognize that just because a 15-year-old commits a crime that is considered an “adult” crime does not mean they fully understand the ramifications of their actions like an adult would. We also feel the courts should consider using more neuropsychological tests to establish whether juveniles really are competent enough to stand trial in adult court.

  2. Hi there! This is kind of off topic but I need some guidance from an established blog.
    Is it difficult to set up your own blog? I’m not very techincal but I can figure things out pretty quick. I’m thinking about making my own but I’m not sure where to start. Do you have any tips or suggestions? Appreciate it

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