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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2012;40(1):33-40.

Commentary: Building a developmental-ecological model of criminal culpability during adolescence.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, CT, USA.


In this issue of The Journal, Dr. Peter Ash offers the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law some ideas on developmentally informed assessment of criminal culpability during adolescence. After highlighting issues that complicate the definition and assessment of criminal culpability, Ash lists 10 constructs that he believes should be carefully considered by forensic clinicians in developing opinions about legal responsibility for a crime committed by a minor. I applaud Ash for beginning a dialogue on the clinical dimension of this topic, and I appreciate his emphasis on the need for developmentally informed assessment of juvenile defendants. In this commentary, I briefly illustrate how the principles of developmental psychopathology can be used to articulate a developmental-ecological model of criminal culpability for use by forensic clinicians in the assessment of younger defendants, as the courts more broadly accept the concept of mitigation of legal responsibility by reason of developmental immaturity.

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