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Am Psychol. 2009 Oct;64(7):583-94. doi: 10.1037/a0014763.

Are adolescents less mature than adults?: minors' access to abortion, the juvenile death penalty, and the alleged APA "flip-flop".

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Temple University, Philadelphia, PA 19122, USA. lds@temple.edu

Abstract

The American Psychological Association's (APA's) stance on the psychological maturity of adolescents has been criticized as inconsistent. In its Supreme Court amicus brief in Roper v. Simmons (2005), which abolished the juvenile death penalty, APA described adolescents as developmentally immature. In its amicus brief in Hodgson v. Minnesota (1990), however, which upheld adolescents' right to seek an abortion without parental involvement, APA argued that adolescents are as mature as adults. The authors present evidence that adolescents demonstrate adult levels of cognitive capability earlier than they evince emotional and social maturity. On the basis of this research, the authors argue that it is entirely reasonable to assert that adolescents possess the necessary skills to make an informed choice about terminating a pregnancy but are nevertheless less mature than adults in ways that mitigate criminal responsibility. The notion that a single line can be drawn between adolescence and adulthood for different purposes under the law is at odds with developmental science. Drawing age boundaries on the basis of developmental research cannot be done sensibly without a careful and nuanced consideration of the particular demands placed on the individual for "adult-like" maturity in different domains of functioning.

PMID:
19824745
DOI:
10.1037/a0014763
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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