Delinquency and Desert

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This article addresses the moral and legal responsibility that may fairly be attributed to mid and late adolescents who commit criminal offenses and how adolescents' responsibility should affect the law's response. It offers a robust theory of responsibility that is rooted in our current moral theories and practices of blame and punishment. Next the article reviews the psychosocial and developmental literature to determine whether or to what degree mid to late adolescents are morally responsible for their conduct and whether they are less responsible than adults. Finally, the article considers the dispositional consequences implied by the theory of responsibility in general and by what we know about adolescents in particular. It concludes that neither data nor commonsense can resolve the normative issue of juvenile responsibility.

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Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science