Juveniles' understanding of trial-related information: are they competent defendants?

Behav Sci Law. 1997 Spring;15(2):167-80. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-0798(199721)15:2<167::aid-bsl266>3.0.co;2-e.


There exists a national trend lowering the age to transfer children facing serious charges to adult court for trial. This study examined juvenile offenders' understanding of factual information about trials. Juveniles ages 11 through 16 experiencing their first institutional placement were administered a competence to stand trial screening measure, shown an educational videotape, and readministered the measure. Findings suggest that a majority do not have sufficient understanding for meaningful participation in their trials. Special care appears warranted with juveniles ages 13 and under, and juveniles with low average or below average IQ scores. Further, substantial training may be necessary for some juvenile offenders.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Criminal Law / education*
  • Criminal Law / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Education / methods*
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology*
  • Male
  • Mental Competency*
  • South Carolina
  • Videotape Recording