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Breakdown in the Language Zone: The Prevalence of Language Impairments among Juvenile and Adult Offenders and Why it Matters


Michele LaVigne


University of Wisconsin Law School

Gregory Van Rybroek


Mendota Mental Health Institute

August 23, 2010

US Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy, Forthcoming
University of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1127

Abstract:     
For over eighty years, social scientists have known that poor language skills are closely associated with the constellation of emotional and behavioral disturbances routinely seen in juvenile and criminal court. These include conduct disorder, academic deficits, social incompetence, impulsivity, and even aggression. As we might expect, researchers have also found that language impairments are present at a high rate within juvenile and adult correctional institutions. So far however, the law has barely acknowledged even the existence of this body of social science, let alone its significance for the administration of justice, rehabilitation, and public safety. This article is an attempt to bring this phenomenon to light. It examines why widespread language deficits among so many juvenile and adult defendants should be a matter of great concern for the juvenile and criminal justice systems, and perhaps more importantly, what we can do about it.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 89

Keywords: Language, Behavior, Juvenile Law, Criminal Law, Criminal Law & Procedure

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Date posted: August 24, 2010 ; Last revised: April 12, 2011

Suggested Citation

LaVigne, Michele and Van Rybroek, Gregory, Breakdown in the Language Zone: The Prevalence of Language Impairments among Juvenile and Adult Offenders and Why it Matters (August 23, 2010). US Davis Journal of Juvenile Law and Policy, Forthcoming; University of Wisconsin Legal Studies Research Paper No. 1127. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1663805

Contact Information

Michele LaVigne (Contact Author)
University of Wisconsin Law School ( email )
975 Bascom Mall
Madison, WI 53706
United States
Gregory Van Rybroek
Mendota Mental Health Institute ( email )
301 Troy Drive
Madison, WI 53704
United States
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