how much older is older and wiser?

There’s a recent development among state judiciaries reversing the trends of the 80s and 90s where younger and younger juveniles were tried as adults, sometimes even as young as 13. You can read the article here.

It is now being recognized that these young people actually lack the maturity and judgment skills required to be able to make wise decisions.

Can I just say, well, duh?

Is there anyone who actually believes that teenagers function as adults? Has that person ever spent any time with a teenager? We don’t even let them some of them drive. Our biggest hope for many is that they change their underwear and/or brush their teeth at least once a week and do at least 60% of their homework.

My sons are 21 and 17 and I would hardly call them mature adults. First Son is home for spring break this week, and has spent most of his time interacting with Second Son by egging him on with “Your mom,” “That’s what she said,” and body function jokes. When not being cooked for, they live on cereal, Cheetos, and Creme Soda. It’s been proven that the male cerebral cortex doesn’t mature until around the age of 25. (I hold this out as a constant source of hope; it’s not too late, yet. I also think it’s ridiculous that we’ll allow 18-year olds to vote, get married and join the military, but not consume alcohol, but this is a topic for another time.)

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing the “struggles” my children face with the struggles faced by those in the judicial system. I am grateful every day for the relative safety and ample opportunity available to them in the corners of the world in which they live.  But to pose the idea that because the act of a “juvenile” is violent they should therefore be prosecuted as an adult is ludicrous. Besides their immaturity, which includes an inability to see the possible consequences of their actions beyond the immediate future, one also must take into account the problems (if not horrors) of their day-to-day lives and the incredible influence wielded by peer pressure.

[In a related “story” there has been much talk lately about the “Millenial Generation” and the tendency of those within it to delay the rites of adulthood well into their 20s. Apparently these statistics align with the circumstances of people in their 20s up to the second World War, and by many is considered to be a good thing. Maybe that Pew Research Study would have been more helpful if it had asked things like: Do you think it’s a good idea to be gainfully employed before having children? and: Do you think it’s a good idea to have the vaguest notion who you are before you decide who you want to marry?]

In any case, the cost involved in treating (rehabilitating) juveniles has to be less than the cost, both financial and sociological, of not. This is definitely one case where it’s better for everybody if we can take the long view.

5 Responses to “how much older is older and wiser?”

  1. March 8, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Part of the reasoning is juveniles don’t have full rights under the law, whereas adults do. For instance, you have a right to a trial by jury when tried as an adult, whereas you don’t have that right as a juvenile. Sometimes it can be an advantage for a juvenile to be tried as an adult.

    I’m not saying it’s all good. Just saying there can be advantages. It’s always best to retain a lawyer who has experience for advice if a child gets into trouble with the law. I can’t tell you how much a good attorney is worth. I’ve worked for law firms and seen lawyers get people off that I thought for sure would go to jail. A good lawyer is costly, but if you consider the consequences of a conviction on a young person’s life, I don’t think the cost is really so high.

  2. March 8, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Teenagers are biologically insane (hormones and such) and the one who isn’t is an exception to the rule. I second your duh! I know it’s gut wrenching if the person who suffers violence or dies at the hand of a teenager is someone you care about, but I agree that we should be more interested in rehabilitating those who can become mentally healthy members of society than in incarceration that could cement the worst of their behavior. Or worsen it.

  3. 3 Boston Margy
    March 8, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Yes, I completely agree. Well, duh, as you say.

  4. March 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm

    I am still shocked that we let 18 year olds joing the military and go to combat. That seems so wrong in every way.

  5. 5 jill
    March 10, 2011 at 2:22 pm

    Here’s an interesting take on why teens act the way they do. The brain is so fascinating it’s hard to tell what is the cause and what the effect.


    Sorry that doesn’t show as a link.

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