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J Am Acad Psychiatry Law. 2011;39(3):316-26.

Future orientation and competence to stand trial: the fragility of competence.

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Department of Psychology, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996, USA.


The current study examined the direct, indirect, and interactive effects of age, intellectual ability, psychiatric symptomatology, and future orientation on juvenile adjudicative competence utilizing a secondary sample of 927 youth from the MacArthur Juvenile Adjudicative Competence Study. Consistent with previous research, age, intellectual ability, and future orientation were found to be positively associated with competence, and psychiatric symptomatology was weakly negatively related to competence. Tests of indirect effects revealed that the development of an orientation toward future consequences partially explains the relationship between age and the capacity to reason about legal decision-making. Further, tests of invariance revealed that the competence of immature adolescents is particularly "fragile," in that smaller deficits in cognitive abilities appear to pose greater problems in youths regarding their adjudicative competence than in their more mature peers. Findings are discussed in regard to forensic practice as well as for future research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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