Should the science of adolescent brain development inform public policy?

Am Psychol. 2009 Nov;64(8):739-50. doi: 10.1037/0003-066X.64.8.739.


One factor that has contributed to confusion in discussions of the use of adolescent neuroscience in the development of public policies affecting young people is a blurring of three very different issues that need to be separated: (a) what science does and does not say about brain development in adolescence; (b) what neuroscience does and does not imply for the understanding of adolescent behavior; and (c) what these implications suggest for public policy. In this article, the author argues that a good deal is known about adolescent brain development, that this knowledge has in fact been useful in shaping our understanding of adolescent behavior, and that neuroscience, like behavioral science, can usefully inform policy discussions. He cautions, however, that nonexperts may be unduly swayed by neuroscience evidence and thus that such evidence should be presented with special care.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / growth & development*
  • Criminal Psychology / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Expert Testimony / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Psychology, Adolescent / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Public Policy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Social Responsibility
  • United States