By Kathryn Rea Smith, PH.D.
In my role as a forensic psychologist, I evaluate adolescents with legal problems. Sometimes these evaluations are in anticipation of a transfer hearing, in which the prosecutor will argue that the adolescent offender should be tried as an adult in criminal court, and the juvenile court judge must decide whether to transfer the case. In such instances, I am called upon to describe to the court the ways in which the adolescent’s development was derailed and the circumstances that contributed to the development of criminal behaviors. I am also asked to recommend interventions for rehabilitating the adolescent. In order to know what help these troubled adolescents need, it is first necessary to understand the factors that contribute to successful adolescent development. In their book Rethinking juvenile justice, Elizabeth Scott and Laurence Steinberg describe three conditions during adolescence that have been shown to foster social and emotional maturity: (1) authoritative parenting; (2) participation in pro-social peer groups; and (3) involvement in activities that allow for autonomous decision-making and critical thinking. Read more →