The Developing Brain: New Directions in Science, Policy, and Law--Introduction
57 Washington University Journal of Law & Policy 1 (2018)
14 Pages Posted: 29 Dec 2018 Last revised: 31 Dec 2018
Date Written: June 1, 2018
Scientific findings on brain development increasingly are influencing how we understand children’s social and emotional development and how we interpret their behavior. Such understandings and interpretations, in turn, can shape public policy and legal precedent, as shown by the U.S. Supreme Court’s recognition of constitutional limitations on criminal punishments imposed on young offenders.
This essay introduces a transdisciplinary symposium that explores new learning about the negative impact of “early stressors” on brain development and the opportunities that such learning presents for law and policy reforms. The symposium, part of a Washington University initiative on Neuroscience and Society, builds on the influence that neuroscience has already exerted on criminal law and juvenile justice and examines both the promise and the challenges of attempting to replicate this relationship in other contexts. For example, one challenge emerges from American jurisprudence’s distinction between constitutional limits on government action (as in the juvenile justice cases) versus calls for government support in response to demonstrated individual and societal benefits (as in interventions to minimize early stressors).
The symposium contributions reflect the diverse expertise of the authors—including law, medicine, neuroscience, psychology, economics, public health, and social work, as well as insights from those with on-the-ground experience in policy making and implementation. Thanks to the wide array of perspectives, the symposium presents a conversation not only about how neuroscience might influence law and policy but also about how neuroscientists can undertake research that would prove most useful in influencing law and policy. For the full symposium, entitled Bringing Science to Law and Policy, see volume 57 of the Washington University Journal of Law & Policy (available online).
Keywords: brain development, neuroscience, early stressors, public health, social science, law and policy reform
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