Prospects for remediating juveniles’ adjudicative incompetence

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Psychiatry



Document Type


Medical Subject Headings

Juvenile Delinquency; Crime; Mental Disorders; Adolescent; Adolescent Behavior; Mental Competency




With the application of adjudicative competence requirements to adolescent defendants, there is a growing need for interventions to enhance the legal capacities of adolescents who are found to be incompetent. By reviewing developmental, clinical, and educational research, the authors discuss whether it is possible to enhance youths' legal capacities and, if so, what the most promising approaches may be. Psychoeducational interventions for youth are discussed, as well as the possibility of changing the demands of the juvenile justice system to try borderline-competent youth in juvenile court. The authors conclude that there is evidence to believe it may be challenging to enhance youths' legal capacities, particularly when youth have limited rational understanding and/or legal reasoning capacities, and when these deficits stem from developmental immaturity and/or mental retardation. A research agenda is proposed.

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Citation: Viljoen, J., & Grisso, T. (2007). Prospects for remediating juveniles’ adjudicative incompetence. Psychology, Public Policy and Law, 13, 87-114.