Adolescents in Society: Their Evolving Legal Status
Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 20, 2012
15 Pages Posted: 6 Mar 2012
Date Written: March 6, 2012
The last few years have brought particularly significant transformations in the interplay between society and adolescents. On the one hand, the law is increasingly recognizing the key neurological and psychosocial differences between adults and adolescents. As the Supreme Court has concluded in a string of recent cases: there are certain “self-evident” and “universal” differences between children and adults confirmed by both science and common sense. On the other hand, young people are increasingly asserting their independence, whether through the use of new technologies or in medical decisions, and are demanding a voice in matters that concern them. The legal status of adolescents continues to be variable and often inconsistent; adolescents are treated as mature adults for some purposes and as incompetent minors for others. This area of law has never been more in flux.
This Article introduces a symposium issue on “Adolescents in Society: Their Evolving Legal Status.” The symposium focused on the three key areas of criminal law, health, and technology. We were extremely fortunate to be able to bring together judges, lawyers, scholars, and other experts to address questions including: How has the status and role of adolescents changed recently, whether through court decisions, legislation or other means of social change?; What types of data or evidence, be it psychological, statistical, or anecdotal, are courts and legislatures relying on to craft protections and obligations for today’s youth?; and How should young people be accorded increasing autonomy to allow them to mature, while also being protected against harms to which they are vulnerable?
Keywords: Adolescent, child, juvenile justice, consent
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