Recent Australian studies of alcohol and cannabis use show that girls are increasingly inclined to behave boldly. But boys out number the girls, two to one; and three to one in the juvenile justice system, mortality figures, speeding infringements and car crash statistics.
Boys are more likely to hit the headlines with anti-social acts, nightclub stabbings, physical abuse of parents, cruelty to animals, train-surfing, graffiti sessions and craziness that leads them astray.
Boys are more likely to present with neurological disorders associated with extreme impulsiveness and distractibility.
Counsellors, police, parents and school principals usually blame testosterone and an orgy of modern culprits - violent video games, explicit films and media images, spiritual anorexia, dislocated families, alcoholic beverages that taste like cordial and cost less than soft drink, mobile phones, rap music, premature puberty and a society that mollycoddles children who once roamed like free-range chooks.
But now science has harnessed technology to reveal evidence about brain development and gender differences that is leading to worldwide reviews of adolescent culpability and age-appropriate limits for drinking, driving and criminal charges.
The application of endocrinology, psychology, psychiatry, genetics and neuroscience with its magnetic resonance imaging tools has confirmed what parents of teenagers know instinctively. Maturity does not kick in at a precise chronologica point, and girls tend to be streets ahead of boys in their ability to conduct cost-benefit analysis of behaviour.
The U.S. Supreme Court will soon address the constitutionality of the death penalty for 17-year-old offenders based on scientific research that shows the human brain, particularly for males, continues to evolve in adolescence, reaching biological maturity at 21 or 22. The last regions to develop govern the mental ability to control impulses, planning, consideration of consequences, abstract reasoning and most probably moral judgement.
"To a certain degree this latest research simply confirms what we have always known or suspected about the brain development of 17-year-olds," the American Society for Adolescent Psychiatry says in a petition to the court. "While they often appear to be 'fully grown' physically and may seem to be functioning as adults, their judgement and impulse control are simply not those of adults.
Yes, they may know 'right from wrong' under an infancy defence or an insanity test but they nonetheless are lacking in fully adult-level functioning of their brains. They may make horrible decisions, and they act on impulse without thinking clearly through the consequences."
A court affidavit by neuro-psychologist Dr Ruben Gur summarises the brain anatomy data from groundbreaking studies conducted at Harvard, Stanford and Johns Hopkins medical schools and the National Institute of Health.
Scientists are intrigued by the brain development taking place in adolescence. The grey matter, or thinking part of the brain, peaks at around 11 years in girls and age 12 in boys, followed by a pruning stage which thins and eliminates excess connections. This process is accompanied by myelination, where the brain's white matter or "insulation" focuses and refines neural networks regulating behaviour.
Latest research suggests that myelination is the main index of maturation and that this insulation continues into the 20th year of life. Neurological teams are now investigating whether nature or nurture - genes, parenting, nutrients or other influences-determine this brain development.
Dr Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health has been scanning sets of twins. He has found that the corpus callosum - the thick cable of nerves that connects the two halves of the brain - is remarkably similar in twins but the cerebellum in the back of the brain which co-ordinates cognitive processes is not genetically controlled and changes most during the teen years.
The male brain is 10 per cent larger than the female brain, although this does not imply any advantage. IQs are similar. But there are differences between boys' and girls' brains in the size of certain structures and their developmental path.
Almost every neurological disorder is more common in boys- autism, dyslexia, learning disabilities, attention deficit and hyperactivity, Tourette's syndrome. Only anorexia nervosa afflicts mostly girls.
Studies tracking brain development from adolescence to adulthood have shown that males rely more heavily than females on the instinctual part of the brain. The frontal lobe, which develops more slowly in males than in females, undergoes dramatic change during teenage years and is the last part of the brain to develop. A small area of the frontal lobe, the prefrontal cortex, is like the body's chief executive. It controls our advanced level of consciousness responsible for prioritising thoughts, abstract thinking, language comprehension and expression, impulse control, planning and inhibition. As the frontal lobe is developing, there lease of adolescent hormones causes the amygdala, which governs emotional response, to fire up or expand.
Deborah Yurgelun-Todd of the Harvard Medical School has studied how teenagers and adults respond differently to the same images. Shown photos of faces contorted in fear, adults named the right emotion but teenagers seldom did, mistaking anxiety for anger.
When Yurgelun-Todd's team performed this test using magnetic resonance imaging to examine the brain's functions, they found that adults used the advanced prefrontal cortex and the amygdala to evaluate the image, while teenagers relied entirely on the amygdala. Older teenagers showed a progressive shift toward the front of the brain. "Just because teens are physically mature, they may not appreciate the consequences or weigh information the same way as adults do," Yurgelun-Todd says. "Good judgement is learned but you can't learn it if you don't have the necessary hardware."
This should explain, not excuse, anti-social behaviour and help in the design of programs and deterrence that minimise the potential for teenagers to harm themselves and others.
Historically, the ripening from adolescence to adulthood has been wrongfully guided by arbitrary age limits governing the right to vote, go to jail, enter the military, get married, have sex and even get the death sentence for certain crimes.
The Australian Coalition Against Death Penalty has incessantly discussed the issue of child offenders on death row with friendly officials at the American Embassy in Canberra.
ACADP has a webpage dedicated to the abolition of capital punishment for child offenders, which includes a short profile of a child offender on Texas death row. Leo's case has been used to educate Australian students of the dangers associated with youth, substance abuse and crime.
Leo Little was 17 years old when he committed his crime. Now aged 24, Leo told ACADP that he still has difficulties trying to understand and explain how he could have committed such a crime. Leo has no answers to his own questions.
Too young to vote, old enough to be executed
''People change. You know, to take somebody's life at 17 - you can't hold a 17-year-old by the same standards as you do me or you... I've made poor decisions, everybody does. But experience - you know, life - life is a teacher, and I know even today Napoleon is much better now than he was then.'' Rena Beazley, mother of Napoleon Beazley, May 2001(1)
By ACADP posted 13 December 04
The ACADP webpage on child offenders on death row can be found at the following Internet website: Source (ACADP and The Australian).
AUSTRALIAN COALITION AGAINST DEATH PENALTY
© ACADP Incorporated ¨
The Premier Australian Internet
Resource on Capital Punishment
US death row numbers don't change policy?
The number of prisoners on death row in the United States appears to be falling, mostly credited to a single Governor who commuted the sentences of all the death row prisoners in his state.
Despite Drop in Crime, an Increase in Inmates
US: The number of inmates in state and federal prisons rose 2.1 percent last year, even as violent crime and property crime fell, according to a study by the Justice Department released yesterday.
How Denying the Vote to Ex-Offenders Undermines Democracy
For starters, hundreds of thousands of people who are still eligible to vote will not do so this year because they will be locked up in local jails, awaiting processing or trials for minor offenses.
DNA Evidence of Bipartisanship
Last week the U.S. Congress passed the Justice for All Act, which includes provisions of the Innocence Protection Act. As of this posting, the legislation has not yet been signed by President Bush. Attached is an analysis of the legislation prepared by the Justice Project.
Our Two Priority Bills sent to White House
US: The 8th National CURE Convention last June lobbied on Capitol Hill the Innocence Protection Act in the Senate and the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act of 2004 in the House. On Sunday, October 10th, Congress passed both bills and sent them to the President to be signed.
THE LAW IS AN ASS:
US: A Californian man who beheaded a german shepherd dog he had named after his girlfriend, has been sentenced to 25 years to life under California's three-strikes law.
EXTRADITION ACT FLUSHED DOWN THE TOILET
A long-standing convention not to extradite people out of Australia if they face the death penalty has been abandoned.
BIRTHDAY PROTEST BACKS INNOCENT MAN ON DEATH ROW:
Kids from 3 to 83 years old beat candy labeled "Justice" out of a big Texas-shaped piqata on Aug. 1 as dozens gathered in the Houston City Hall Park to celebrate the 30th birthday of Nanon Williams, an innocent person on Texas death row.
THE LAND OF BIBLES, GUNS, PATRIOTS AND THE 'WORLD ROLE MODEL' FOR HUMAN RIGHTS: The state of Alabama, USA, executed James Barney Hubbard. So what? ... you might say ... America executes prisoners almost every week!
Appealing a Death Sentence Based on Future Danger USA-HOUSTON, June 9 - Texas juries in capital cases must make a prediction. They may impose a death sentence only if they find that the defendant will probably commit more violent acts.
Forensics? In proposing a new death penalty for Massachusetts last month, Governor Mitt Romney offered firm assurance that no innocent people would be executed: Convictions, he said, will be based on science.
Silencing the Cells: Mass Incarceration and Legal Repression in U.S. Prisons People without a voice are not people in any meaningful sense of the word. Silenced people cannot express their ideas; they can neither consent nor protest. They are reduced to being pawns in the schemes of the powerful, mendicants who must accept whatever is imposed upon them. In order to keep people in a state of subjugation, silencing their voices is essential. Nowhere is this clearer than in U.S. prisons.
U.N. Group Seeks End To Executions The United States, Japan, China, India and Muslim nations including Saudi Arabia opposed the resolution. Burkina Faso, Cuba, Guatemala, South Korea and Sri Lanka abstained.
US: Execution Dear Friends, this is so sad especially for our dear friend, San Nguyen. San who lives in Oklahoma worked very hard with the rest of the Vietnamese community to stop Mr. Le's execution. You may remember San from being at CURE's First International Conference in New York City in 2001. San also plans to be at the 8th National Convention this June in Washington. Charlie
Please contact the Governor The Vietnamese-American Community, the ACLU, and many others want the March 30 execution of Huang Thanh Le commuted.
Cherie Blair attacks US over death penalty in Catholic paper Cherie Blair has renewed her attack on America's use of the death penalty. In a book review in the Catholic journal The Tablet, under her maiden name Cherie Booth, she says: "Capital cases are uniquely prone to error and thus call into question whether we can ever be really sure of obtaining the just result.
Death penalty: a lawyer sees the light The observation "Americans are from Mars and Europeans are from Venus" is illustrated by the two nations' differing reactions to the use of the death penalty as a legitimate punishment for murder.
OHIO: Judges join dissent on execution delay In Columbus, 5 federal appeals court judges say a convicted killer's request to delay his execution was illegally denied because 2 senior judges participated in the vote.
Stephen Romei: Death knell sounds for US capital law GEORGE Ryan gets my vote as Australian of the Year, even though he's the outgoing governor of the US state of Illinois. There's just no one I admire more right now, not even Greg's Kables Community News Newtwork..
Mexico Awaits Hague Ruling on Citizens on U.S. Death Row Sbaldo Torres, a convicted murderer on death row in Oklahoma, should have been dead by now, his appeals exhausted, his time up.
Jury Passes On Business Of Killing US: This drives the death penalty crowd in the legislature nuts. Yet another jury - another 12 men and women, tried and true, who had all attested to their belief in the death penalty - has refused to join in the killing business.
Ultimate Punishment Scott Turow has long juggled two careers‹that of a novelist and that of a lawyer. He wrote much of his first and best known legal thriller, Presumed Innocent, on the commuter train to and from work during the eight years he spent as an Assistant United States Attorney in Chicago, and he has churned out another blockbuster every third year since joining the firm of Sonnenschein Nath and Rosenthal in 1986.
A Question of Innocence Rubin Carter: Day after day, week after week, I would sit in that filthy cell, seething. I was furious at everyone. At the two state witnesses who lied, at the police who put them up to it, at the prosecutor who sanctioned it, at the judge who allowed it, at the jury who accepted it, and at my own lawyer, for not being able to defeat it.
Amnesty steps up campaign to abolish death penalty Human rights watchdog Amnesty International is urging people around the world to pressure countries to abolish the death penalty.
'LAND OF THE FREE' SET TO EXECUTE TWO PRISONERS BY FIRING SQUAD: Wanted: Willing executioners for two convicted murderers. Must be psychologically sound and familiar with .30-calibre rifles. No victims' relatives need apply.
TEXAS EXECUTES 300th PRISONER Keith Clay was executed tonight, becoming the 300th prisoner in Texas to die by lethal injection since the rogue state resumed the death penalty 20 years ago.
AUSTRALIAN COALITION AGAINST DEATH PENALTY " ... Our nation was built on a promise of life and liberty for all citizens. Guided by a deep respect for human dignity, our Founding Fathers worked to secure these rights for future generations, and today we continue to seek to fulfil their promise in our laws and our society.
Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty Please note the following article carefully.....it shows clearly the hateful, uncaring and anti-human rights attitude as reflected by the Governor of Texas (and most other elected Texas officials).
Bush rules out death sentence review US President George W Bush says has dismissed any chance of a review of America's system of capital punishment.
Amnesty urges Bush to shut death row Human rights watchdog Amnesty International has urged US President George W. Bush to take a "moral stand" and abolish the death penalty after the Illinois Governor dramatically emptied that state's death row.
USA - A NATION IN TURMOIL: As the year 2002 draws to a close, little if anything, has changed in the United States in regards to state-sanctioned killing. Various campaigns, calls for clemency, petitions, and international condemnation, have failed to humanize U.S. politicians.
Here come de Judge - Time to Leave 
There have always been examples of rulings and interpretations that have supported the saying "The law is an ass". This is increasingly the case, because even the best intentioned judges are now facing an avalanche of new technologies and social change. But, it is no good making excuses for the judiciary and continuing to accept their strange interpretations. We must recognise that not only judges but the whole legal system will struggle more and more. In the end the whole system will become a farce. This is the way empires end.
Govt, police 'let off the hook' Haneef inquiry
8 years ago