Policy Statement on the Jurisdiction of the Juvenile Court System

Neuroscience research has established that brain development continues throughout adolescence and into the early to mid-twenties. The frontal lobes, responsible for thinking, planning, judgment and inhibiting impulsive behavior, are the last areas to develop.1 The scientific consensus on brain development has been recognized and cited by the U.S. Supreme Court in recent majority opinions concerning the juvenile death penalty (2005)1 and juvenile life without parole (20102, 20123, and 20164). Consistent with these decisions, individual states have begun to reevaluate and revise existing statutes pertaining to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court system. For most crimes, legislatures are increasingly raising the age at which young people can be tried as adults to 186. In addition to acknowledging the brain science, these lawmakers have noted the rehabilitative emphasis of the juvenile court system. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry supports and encourages this trend. The Academy specifically believes that defendants under the age of 18 should be adjudicated through the juvenile court system.

Developed by the Children and the Law Committee

  1. Galvau, A. Insights about Adolescent Behavior, Plasticity, and Policy from Neuroscience Research. Neuron: 83, 2, 2014.
  2. Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551 (2005)
  3. Graham v. Florida, 560 U.S. 48 (2010)
  4. Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. __ (2012)
  5. Montgomery v. Louisiana, 577 U.S. __ (2016)
  6. Juvenile Justice Initiative accessed at jjustice.org/resources/raise-the-age


The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry promotes the healthy development of children, adolescents, and families through advocacy, education, and research. Child and adolescent psychiatrists are the leading physician authority on children’s mental health.

Approved by Council October 2016