Current status of the Juvenile Court and Forensic Psychology

Current status of the Juvenile Court and Forensic Psychology

By Maura Downey

The current status of forensic psychologists within the juvenile court system stands as either assistants to judges and attorneys, or providing treatment and interventions to juveniles and their subsequent families.

For the psychologists who assist judges and attorneys, they conduct forensic evaluations of the defendants, and provide the judge and attorneys with information and results, such as emotional, behavioral, and cognitive functioning. The evaluations include some of the following:

Transfer evaluations: determines whether the minor should be transferred to the adult criminal court. The concept of transference is based upon the thought that some minors whose behavior is not based upon developmental factors, and are highly likely to continue to commit crimes and pose a threat to the community.

Competence evaluations:

    • Competence to confess- determines whether the youth is capable to fully understand their right to exercise their Sixth Amendment rights. Factors that may effect this are developmental (cognitive, emotional, or behavioral problems) and situational (time, interrogation conditions, and lack of presence of parents).
    • Competence to Proceed with Legal Process- mainly drawn from the adult courts, forensic psychologists help determine whether the adolescent has functional abilities to understand charges, allegations, and the legal process as a whole.

Mental state at the time of offense and sanity evaluations: again, modeled after the adult court system, the adolescent’s mental state at the time of offense is evaluated, within the lens of adolescent development.

Dispositional Evaluations: often used to assess the minor in the juvenile court system, dispositional evaluations are focused on rehabilitation and aid in identifying emotional, behavioral, environmental, and/or substance abuse issues related to the adolescent’s offenses. These evaluations also aid in determining interventions to aid in the minor’s future behavior and adjustment back into daily life (Borum & Otto 2004).


 Click here to get a look at the latest Handbook of Juvenile Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry. Google Books provides a small glimpse at the handbook recently published by Springer in 2012, and edited by Elena L. Grigorenko.


Media References:

Grogorenko, E. L. (2012, February). Handbook of Juvenile Forensic Psychology and Psychiatry [Digital image]. Retrieved November 20, 2012, from,r:6,s:0,i:105&tx=38&ty=61


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