Neurodevelopmental Approaches to Understanding and Working With Adolescents in the Juvenile Justice System
This chapter briefly reviews the extant literature on the social neuroscience of risk-taking, and the developmental pathways to antisocial behavior among youth, including sexually abusive youth in the juvenile justice system. It explores neurodevelopmental impact of victimization, as well as the relationship between traumatic experiences, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and dissociation and sexual and nonsexual offending. The chapter discusses neuroethical and policy issues concerning the applicability of neuroscience in making decisions about criminal intent and culpability, along with considerations for implementing a trauma-informed approach in social work practice. Many juvenile offenders are vulnerable to exploitation themselves and have experienced multiple types of victimization, including complex trauma, which concomitantly impacts brain development. One commonality among various types of youthful offenders, especially habitual offenders, is a history of life course trauma, victimization, and mental health issues, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).