This brief presents an overview of adolescent brain development and its implications for law enforcement personnel's interactions with youth.
Adolescent brain development research conducted over the last 20 years shows that youths' behavior and thinking may be attributed to their developmental stage. The human brain does not become fully developed until the mid to late 20s, including functioning that controls impulses, calms emotion, provides an understanding of the consequences of behavior, and allows for rational decisionmaking, The frontal lobe of the brain, which is still developing in adolescents, is the command center for actions, problemsolving, memory, impulsiveness, and social behavior. This lack of full brain development in adolescence is further diminished in stressful situations, such as interactions with law enforcement officers. This brief lists 15 characteristics of adolescent behavior and capabilities attributable to their lack of full brain development. There is also a growing body of research that indicates adolescents' healthy relationships with adults can facilitate positive youth development and reduce the likelihood of delinquent and anti-social behavior. Adults can provide a context of support, attention, and sensitive behavioral guidance that can mitigate the behavioral consequences of limited adolescent brain development. Law enforcement officers are in a position to contribute to the adult guidance of adolescents through interactions in the context of adolescents' harmful and risky behaviors. This brief outlines 10 strategies for improving law enforcement interactions with youth, and it discusses legal considerations in juvenile interviews and interrogations. 28 references
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Date Published: January 1, 2015