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suggests that it makes evolutionary sense that adolescents are more motivated by appetitive inclinations, more oriented towards sensation seeking, and more willing to take risks, for adolescence is the period during which individuals must leave the natal environment and seek out mates.197

experimentation and testing limits,200 and it is a time during which capacities of self-regulation are still underdeveloped. It is also a time during which the future adult is shaped. Von Hirsch and Ashworth point out that adolescence is a time

for weaning oneself away from adult authority, for learning to live autonomously, for testing limits. As a result, it is a time for making misjudgments, including those that harm others.201

Zimring considers the granting of a freedom to experiment to juveniles a particularly important element of a free society.202 Our society aims to raise responsible citizens who live offending-free lives, are able to think for themselves, and make responsible decisions. Autonomy is a goal that juveniles aim to reach. Society also considers autonomy a valuable attribute of a citizen in a free society: it is not raising sheep who simply follow rules and leaders. The aim of creating autonomous citizens implies the risk that mistakes will be made by some of the developing young citizens. While these mistakes (for example criminal offending) may have serious consequences, they will lead to learning, and so the young person will be less likely to reoffend in the future.203 As von Hirsch and Ashworth point out: “Learning to make choices carries with it the risk of making bad choices”.204

Accepting such an understanding involves the recognition that even a “good”

youngster, who is at an appropriate intellectual and emotional level of development for his or her age, can fail in his or her moral evaluation of a specific situation. Such a mistake can be seen as a slip that does not necessarily reflect the young offender’s general state of mind towards criminal conduct.

Even Aristotle claimed that the actions of young offenders are no proof of a

“bad” character, as can be assumed in the case of a grown adult.205 Young people always exhibit the highest rates of offending. With regard to reported

200 See Phillip Hwang and Björn Nilsson, Utvecklingspsykologi (3rd Edition. Stockholm: Natur &

Kultur, 2011), 327.

201 Von Hirsch and Ashworth (2005), 44.

202 See Zimring (2005), 18.

203 Obviously, this argument is only valid to a certain extent. We do not want young offenders to

“experience” a murder to learn that killing a person is wrong.

204 Von Hirsch and Ashworth (2005), 46.

205 Aristotle claimed that “the wrongs they commit come from insolence, not maliciousness”; see Kennedy (1991), 166.

delinquency, it reaches its peak in the 18–25 years age group.206 Boys tend to be more criminally active than girls207 and also are more often the victims of crime.208 After these years the rates decrease.209 Juvenile delinquency is therefore not necessarily the gateway to a criminal career but, on the contrary, a

“normal”210 phenomenon during this developmental phase.211 Many young offenders cease offending when they move into adulthood.212

206 See Inspektionsrapport 2009:2; Gerhard Spiess, Jugendkriminalität in Deutschland – zwischen Fakten und Dramatisierung. Kriminalstatistische und kriminologische Befunde (Konstanzer Inventar Kriminalitätsentwicklung 2/2012, Bibliothek der Universität Konstanz 2012); Bundesamt für Statistik (2008), “Jugendkriminalität 2008”.

207 See Heinz, Wolfgang, Kriminelle Jugendliche – gefährlich oder gefährdet? (Vol. 220 UVK.

Universitätsverlag Konstanz 2006), 2; see further, also relating to gender, Mechthild Bereswill and Anke Neuber, “Jugendkriminalität und Männlichkeit,” in Handbuch Jugendkriminalität, 307–17 (2nd Edition, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2011); Mirja Silkenbeumer,

“Jugendkriminalität bei Mädchen,” in Handbuch Jugendkriminalität, 319–31 (2nd Edition, Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, 2011); Kerstin Nordlöf, „Genus i kontexten unga lagöverträdare,“ in Festskrift till Catharina Calleman – I Rättens Utkanter, 261-74 (Uppsala: Iustus förlag, 2014); Meda Chesney-Lind, “What about the girls? Delinquency programming as if gender mattered,” (Corrections Today 2001, Vol. 63, No.1: 38–45); Meda Chesney-Lind and Randall G.

Shelden, Girls, Delinquency, and Juvenile Justice (2nd Edition. Belmont: Wadsworth Publishing Co, 1998). Dowd confirms this pattern as valid in the United States (Dowd, seminar “Asking the Man Question: Men, Masculinities, and Equality,” Lund University, 2013-03-13).

208 See Statistiska centralbyrån (2012), 84, 87–8.

209 See Wolfgang Heinz, “Bei der Gewaltkriminalität junger Menschen helfen nur härtere Strafen!

Fakten und Mythen in der gegenwärtigen Jugendkriminalpolitik,” (Neue Kriminalpolitik 2008b, Vol.2: 50–9), 50ff.; Wolfgang Heinz, Jugendkriminalität in Deutschland – kriminalstatistische und kriminologische Befunde (Universität Konstanz 2003).

210 The expression “normal” is put in scare quotes to avoid the impression that I consider deviating behaviour as something normal. Generally, criminal behaviour is deviant and can therefore be considered not normal. Otherwise, the juvenile not committing any criminal offences would logically be considered “abnormal”, which cannot be right. But according to the statistics, criminal conduct is so common during adolescence that it can be seen as a part of typical youth behaviour.

211 See Hanns von Hofer, “Åtgärder mot ungdomsbrottslighet,” in Den svenska ungdomsbrottsligheten, 333–49 (3rd Edition. Lund: Studentlitteratur, 2013), 333.

212 See L. Alan Sroufe et al., The Development of the Person – The Minnesota Study of Risk and Adaption from Birth to Adulthood (New York and London: The Guilford Press, 2005), 193;

Zimring (2005), 95. For Sweden see BRÅ Report 2000:7, 5.

2.2.2. Sensation seeking

It has also been argued that emotional arousal and affective lability increase during adolescence, which leads to sensation-seeking behaviour and therefore increased risk taking. Steinberg writes:

The temporal gap between puberty, which impels adolescents towards thrill seeking, and the slow maturation of the cognitive-control system, which regulates these impulses, makes adolescence a time of heightened vulnerability for risky behavior. Risk taking is the product of a competition between the socio-emotional and cognitive-control networks, and adolescence is a period in which the former abruptly becomes more assertive while the latter gains strength only gradually, over a longer period of time.213

What happens during puberty, it is claimed, is a shift in reward sensitivity that drives adolescents to seek higher levels of novelty and stimulation than they did as children. At mid adolescence, reward seeking peaks because the brain system is at its height of arousability but – as mentioned before – systems important for self-regulation are still immature.

However, increased risk taking may not be due to the fact that adolescents underestimate risks. Reyna and Farley point out that although the aim of many interventions is to enhance the accuracy of risk perceptions, adolescents also sometimes overestimate important risks.214 The belief that adolescents feel invincible is a myth.215

2.2.3. Lower levels of self-control

In addition to the fact that adolescence is a time of experimentation and sensation seeking, adolescents are considered to have – on average – lower levels of self-control than adults.216 It has been claimed that changes in mood, which

213 Steinberg (2007), 55–6. This risk taking is indicated by statistics on automobile accidents, binge drinking, contraceptive use, and crime.

214 Such as HIV and lung cancer – see Reyna and Farley (2006), 34.

215 Ibid.

216 See Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Trevor W. Robbins, “Decision-making in the adolescent brain,” (Nature neuroscience 2012, Vol.15, no.9: 1184–91), 1184–5.

are also based on hormonal changes, are influenced by an interaction between rapidly evolving gender-based self-identities and stressful social relationships.

The latter include, first of all, relationships with authority figures like parents, but also those with peers. Adolescence is considered a time of introspection and withdrawal from the family. The young person starts to observe him- or herself from the viewpoint of others and develops a self-perception (an ideal self as opposed to the real self). Neubauer claims that at this time the mental division between subject and object occurs in relation to the self.217 Differences or gaps between desirable self-identities and negative, externally imposed labels can often be a major source of adolescent stress, frustration, and anger.218 Hay and Ashman describe an interactive relationship between gender, parents, peers, and the school in the formation of an adolescent’s general self-concept (confidence and self-worth) and emotional stability (calmness, freedom from anxiety, and depression).219

According to Zimring, new domains (including, for example, secondary education, sex, and driving) require not only the cognitive appreciation of the need for self-control in new situations but also its practice.220 Increasing maturity leads to new capabilities in the form of criticism and questioning and also manifests in the form of new values, attitudes, and behaviour which lead young persons to contrast themselves with their parents. Peers largely assume the position of parents in the socialization process.

Another aspect of the lower levels of self-control is connected to something discussed earlier, namely, the apparent diminished capacity for thinking ahead which leads to more spontaneous decisions. Criminal conduct often arises out of an impulsive decision. This is clear from the fact that, for example, instances of juvenile delinquency often occur during leisure time and in uncontrolled, free spaces.221 A person with a well-developed self control system would consider the possible outcomes before acting. This ability seems not to be completely developed in adolescents, in part due to the fact that young people simply lack

217 See Walter F. Neubauer, Selbstkonzept und Identität im Kindes-und Jugendalter (München:

Ernst Reinhardt Verlag, 1976).

218 See Corrado and Mathesius (2014), 152.

219 See Ian Hay and Adrian F. Ashman, “The development of adolescents’ emotional stability and general self-concept: The interplay of parents, peers, and gender,” (International Journal of Disability, Development and Education 2003, Vol.50, No.1: 77–91), 87.

220 See Zimring (2005), 60.

221 See Schaffstein, Beulke, and Swoboda (2014), 25.

the life experience and therefore the accumulated knowledge that comes from having lived for longer.

2.2.4. Peer pressure

Another crucial aspect to be considered is, as I mentioned briefly above, the apparent sensitivity of adolescents to peer pressure because of the increasing importance of peers and the decreasing importance of parents during this phase of life.222 Peer pressure – or rather the inability to resist it223 – is a well-known problem for young people, who often operate in groups which convey to them feelings of identity, community, and orientation.224 Even if a person is at the average level of intellectual and emotional development for their age, they may be in a situation in which they appreciate what the morally right thing to do is but bend to peer pressure, making the wrong choice.225 Studies in social science indicate that when individuals are alone, there are no differences in risk taking across the different age groups, but when people are in groups, risk taking increases among adolescents and college students but not among adults.226 Both same-sex and opposite-sex peer friendships seem to be more influential in the formation of females’ and males’ emotional stability than relations with parents.227 Adolescents are, it is claimed, highly responsive to the social rewards afforded by positive peer evaluation.228

It has been argued that peer influence exhibits a curvilinear relationship with age: it increases through early adolescence, peaks in middle adolescence (around

222 SOU 1993:35 points out that juvenile delinquency is according to criminological research a group phenomenon (36).

223 See Zimring (2005), 61.

224 See Bernd-Dieter Meier et al., Jugendgerichtsgesetz. Handkommentar (Baden-Baden: Nomos, 2011), §105, 856. See also Schaffstein, Beulke, and Swoboda (2014), 24.

225 For further reading, see Andersson and Mattson (2011) on juveniles in gangs.

226 See Laurence Steinberg, “Risk-Taking in Adolescence – New Perspectives from Brain and Behavioral Science,” (Current Directions in Psychological Science 2007, Vol. 16: 55–9), 56.

227 See Hay and Ashman (2003), 84.

228 See Lia O’Brien et al., “Adolescents Prefer More Immediate Rewards when in the Presence of their Peers,” (Journal of Research on Adolescence 2011, Vol.21, No.4: 747–53), 747; Amanda E.

Guyer et al., “Probing the neural correlates of anticipated peer evaluation in adolescence,” (Child Development 2009: 1000–15), 1014.

15 years of age) and slowly declines into adulthood.229 The peer effect is said to be due specifically to the impact that peers have on adolescents’ reward sensitivity.230 This sensitivity to peer pressure is a typical stage of development in a young person’s life; adolescents turn away from their parents and look for new role models while younger children still look to their parents to make decisions for them. From the biological (developmental neuroscientific) point of view, Steinberg explains this phenomenon as follows:

In the presence of peers or under conditions of emotional arousal, however, the socio-emotional network becomes sufficiently activated to diminish the regulatory effectiveness of the cognitive-control network. Over the course of adolescence, the cognitive-control network matures, so that by adulthood, even under conditions of heightened arousal in the socio-emotional network, inclinations toward risk taking can be modulated.231

Offending or bad behaviour by young people is often connected with “hanging out with the wrong crowd”, associating with troubled individuals.232 Corriero writes: “The power of peer pressure on a child’s decision to engage in criminal behavior is directly related to an adolescent’s need to belong and be accepted by his peers”.233

Another aspect of this phenomenon is pointed out by Riera, who claims that the fear of the loneliness that would result from not joining in with a criminal action persuades young people to take the easy option: to go along with the crowd.234 Findings from developmental psychology indicate that friends have a tendency to become more and more alike in their opinions, statuses, and interests over time.235 The fear of being rejected leads to conformity. These tendencies peak at around 15 to 16 years of age.236 In other words, the element of peer pressure can

229 See Corrado and Mathesius (2014), 149.

230 See Steinberg (2012), 74.

231 Steinberg (2007), 56.

232 Sroufe et al. (2005), 195.

233 Corriero (2006), 30.

234 See Michael Riera, Uncommon Sense for Parents with Teenagers (LLC: Random House, 2012), 22.

235 See Stephen von Tetzchner, Utvecklingspsykologi – Barn- och Ungdomsåren (Lund: Student-litteratur, 2005), 611–13.

236 Ibid.

have a direct and an indirect effect. The direct effect is that the young person will orient his or her decision with respect to the peer group. Indirectly, adolescents’ desire for peer approval, or their fear of rejection, will affect their choices. Behavioural science supports these assumptions through studies of susceptibility to antisocial peer influence that show that vulnerability to peer pressure increases between preadolescence and mid adolescence, peaks in mid adolescence and gradually declines thereafter.237 Consequently, one might suppose that if a young person has time to evaluate a situation, he or she may be just as capable as an adult of making a reasonable decision, but if the young person is emotionally aroused or surrounded by peers – which is quite common in cases of juvenile delinquency – he or she may be much less capable of making the “right” decision, or simply not mature enough to do so.