The neurobiology of decision making in high-risk youth and the law of consent to sex

Jennifer Ann Drobac, Leslie Hulvershorn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Under certain circumstances, the law treats juvenile consent the same as it treats adult decisions, even though a growing body of scientific research demonstrates that children make decisions using less developed cognitive processes. This Article highlights the gaps and deficiencies of legal treatment of juvenile decisions in the context of sex with an adult, as well as integrates new scientific information regarding the decision making of minors in risky situations. Part I examines recent pediatric brain imaging findings during a risky decisionmaking task. Specifically, a new study demonstrates that brain scan results differed between juveniles at high risk for potentially harmful or criminal conduct and healthy children. These differences within juvenile populations support the notion that particular biological and environmental traits in children may further distinguish juvenile decision making from adult decision making. Part II explores the potential impact of these novel neurobiological findings on the legal treatment of juvenile "consent" to sexual activity. A discussion and summary of the juvenile sex crime statutes of all fifty states demonstrates how the law attributes legal capacity and ability to make legally binding decisions to even very young teenagers. Part II also highlights where state civil and criminal law treat juvenile "consent" inconsistently. Criminal and civil laws' treatment of juvenile capacity, in the context of sexual activity with an adult, is not congruent with recent neurobiological discoveries regarding juvenile risk taking and decision making. Therefore, society should reconsider designations regarding legal capacity in light of novel neurobiological findings regarding decision making in juveniles.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)502-551
Number of pages50
JournalNew Criminal Law Review
Volume17
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2014

Fingerprint

neurosciences
decision making
legal capacity
Law
civil law
criminal law
juvenile law
brain
state law
statute
offense
ability

Keywords

  • Adolescence
  • Consent
  • Decision making
  • Neuroscience
  • Sexual harassment
  • Statutory rape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law

Cite this

The neurobiology of decision making in high-risk youth and the law of consent to sex. / Drobac, Jennifer Ann; Hulvershorn, Leslie.

In: New Criminal Law Review, Vol. 17, No. 3, 2014, p. 502-551.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

@article{6eef59012e034880928bccb2d3079122,
title = "The neurobiology of decision making in high-risk youth and the law of consent to sex",
abstract = "Under certain circumstances, the law treats juvenile consent the same as it treats adult decisions, even though a growing body of scientific research demonstrates that children make decisions using less developed cognitive processes. This Article highlights the gaps and deficiencies of legal treatment of juvenile decisions in the context of sex with an adult, as well as integrates new scientific information regarding the decision making of minors in risky situations. Part I examines recent pediatric brain imaging findings during a risky decisionmaking task. Specifically, a new study demonstrates that brain scan results differed between juveniles at high risk for potentially harmful or criminal conduct and healthy children. These differences within juvenile populations support the notion that particular biological and environmental traits in children may further distinguish juvenile decision making from adult decision making. Part II explores the potential impact of these novel neurobiological findings on the legal treatment of juvenile {"}consent{"} to sexual activity. A discussion and summary of the juvenile sex crime statutes of all fifty states demonstrates how the law attributes legal capacity and ability to make legally binding decisions to even very young teenagers. Part II also highlights where state civil and criminal law treat juvenile {"}consent{"} inconsistently. Criminal and civil laws' treatment of juvenile capacity, in the context of sexual activity with an adult, is not congruent with recent neurobiological discoveries regarding juvenile risk taking and decision making. Therefore, society should reconsider designations regarding legal capacity in light of novel neurobiological findings regarding decision making in juveniles.",
keywords = "Adolescence, Consent, Decision making, Neuroscience, Sexual harassment, Statutory rape",
author = "Drobac, {Jennifer Ann} and Leslie Hulvershorn",
year = "2014",
doi = "10.1525/nclr.2014.17.3.502",
language = "English",
volume = "17",
pages = "502--551",
journal = "New Criminal Law Review",
issn = "1933-4192",
publisher = "University of California Press",
number = "3",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - The neurobiology of decision making in high-risk youth and the law of consent to sex

AU - Drobac, Jennifer Ann

AU - Hulvershorn, Leslie

PY - 2014

Y1 - 2014

N2 - Under certain circumstances, the law treats juvenile consent the same as it treats adult decisions, even though a growing body of scientific research demonstrates that children make decisions using less developed cognitive processes. This Article highlights the gaps and deficiencies of legal treatment of juvenile decisions in the context of sex with an adult, as well as integrates new scientific information regarding the decision making of minors in risky situations. Part I examines recent pediatric brain imaging findings during a risky decisionmaking task. Specifically, a new study demonstrates that brain scan results differed between juveniles at high risk for potentially harmful or criminal conduct and healthy children. These differences within juvenile populations support the notion that particular biological and environmental traits in children may further distinguish juvenile decision making from adult decision making. Part II explores the potential impact of these novel neurobiological findings on the legal treatment of juvenile "consent" to sexual activity. A discussion and summary of the juvenile sex crime statutes of all fifty states demonstrates how the law attributes legal capacity and ability to make legally binding decisions to even very young teenagers. Part II also highlights where state civil and criminal law treat juvenile "consent" inconsistently. Criminal and civil laws' treatment of juvenile capacity, in the context of sexual activity with an adult, is not congruent with recent neurobiological discoveries regarding juvenile risk taking and decision making. Therefore, society should reconsider designations regarding legal capacity in light of novel neurobiological findings regarding decision making in juveniles.

AB - Under certain circumstances, the law treats juvenile consent the same as it treats adult decisions, even though a growing body of scientific research demonstrates that children make decisions using less developed cognitive processes. This Article highlights the gaps and deficiencies of legal treatment of juvenile decisions in the context of sex with an adult, as well as integrates new scientific information regarding the decision making of minors in risky situations. Part I examines recent pediatric brain imaging findings during a risky decisionmaking task. Specifically, a new study demonstrates that brain scan results differed between juveniles at high risk for potentially harmful or criminal conduct and healthy children. These differences within juvenile populations support the notion that particular biological and environmental traits in children may further distinguish juvenile decision making from adult decision making. Part II explores the potential impact of these novel neurobiological findings on the legal treatment of juvenile "consent" to sexual activity. A discussion and summary of the juvenile sex crime statutes of all fifty states demonstrates how the law attributes legal capacity and ability to make legally binding decisions to even very young teenagers. Part II also highlights where state civil and criminal law treat juvenile "consent" inconsistently. Criminal and civil laws' treatment of juvenile capacity, in the context of sexual activity with an adult, is not congruent with recent neurobiological discoveries regarding juvenile risk taking and decision making. Therefore, society should reconsider designations regarding legal capacity in light of novel neurobiological findings regarding decision making in juveniles.

KW - Adolescence

KW - Consent

KW - Decision making

KW - Neuroscience

KW - Sexual harassment

KW - Statutory rape

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84904093800&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84904093800&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1525/nclr.2014.17.3.502

DO - 10.1525/nclr.2014.17.3.502

M3 - Article

VL - 17

SP - 502

EP - 551

JO - New Criminal Law Review

JF - New Criminal Law Review

SN - 1933-4192

IS - 3

ER -