The competence-related abilities of adolescent defendants in criminal court

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Adolescent; *Adolescent Psychology; Adult; Age Factors; Female; *Forensic Psychiatry; *Human Development; Humans; Judgment; Likelihood Functions; Male; *Mental Competency; Multivariate Analysis; Prisoners; Psychological Tests; Reproducibility of Results; United States




Increasing numbers of youths are being tried in criminal court because of statutory measures that have decreased the use of judicial review as the primary mechanism for transfer. The relative immaturity of adolescents suggests that transferred youths might have impaired competence-related abilities compared to adults. To test this hypothesis, we compared the competence-related abilities and developmental characteristics of a sample of direct-filed 16-17-year-olds charged in criminal court in the state of Florida (Direct File sample) to a sample of 18-24-year-old adults charged in criminal courts (Adult Offender sample) and to a separate sample of 16-17-year-olds charged in juvenile court (Juvenile Court sample). Results indicated that there were few differences between the Direct File youths and Adult Offenders. The differences that were observed suggested that the Direct Filed youths performed slightly better than the Adult Offender group and the Juvenile Court youths charged in juvenile court. These findings suggest that as a group, 16-17-year-old Direct File adolescents do not have significant deficits in competence-related abilities due to age or immaturity.

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Citation: Law Hum Behav. 2006 Feb;30(1):75-92. Link to article on publisher's site

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