Adolescents' cognitive capacity reaches adult levels prior to their psychosocial maturity

Evidence for a "maturity gap" in a multinational, cross-sectional sample

Grace Icenogle, Laurence Steinberg, Natasha Duell, Jason Chein, Lei Chang, Nandita Chaudhary, Laura Di Giunta, Kenneth A. Dodge, Kostas A. Fanti, Jennifer E. Lansford, Paul Oburu, Concetta Pastorelli, Ann T. Skinner, Emma Sorbring, Sombat Tapanya, Liliana M.Uribe Tirado, Liane P. Alampay, Suha M. Al-Hassan, Hanan M.S. Takash, Dario Bacchini

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Abstract

    All countries distinguish between minors and adults for various legal purposes. Recent U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning the legal status of juveniles have consulted psychological science to decide where to draw these boundaries. However, little is known about the robustness of the relevant research, because it has been conducted largely in the U.S. and other Western countries. To the extent that lawmakers look to research to guide their decisions, it is important to know how generalizable the scientific conclusions are. The present study examines 2 psychological phenomena relevant to legal questions about adolescent maturity: cognitive capacity, which undergirds logical thinking, and psychosocial maturity, which comprises individuals' ability to restrain themselves in the face of emotional, exciting, or risky stimuli. Age patterns of these constructs were assessed in 5,227 individuals (50.7% female), ages 10-30 (M = 17.05, SD = 5.91) from 11 countries. Importantly, whereas cognitive capacity reached adult levels around age 16, psychosocial maturity reached adult levels beyond age 18, creating a "maturity gap" between cognitive and psychosocial development. Juveniles may be capable of deliberative decision making by age 16, but even young adults may demonstrate "immature" decision making in arousing situations. We argue it is therefore reasonable to have different age boundaries for different legal purposes: 1 for matters in which cognitive capacity predominates, and a later 1 for matters in which psychosocial maturity plays a substantial role.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)69-85
    Number of pages17
    JournalLaw and Human Behavior
    Volume43
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

    Fingerprint

    maturity
    Decision Making
    Psychology
    adolescent
    Minors
    Aptitude
    Jurisprudence
    Research
    evidence
    Young Adult
    psychosocial development
    decision making
    legal status
    cognitive development
    know how
    young adult
    Cognitive Capacity
    Maturity
    Supreme Court
    stimulus

    Keywords

    • Adolescence
    • Age of majority
    • Cross-national
    • Law
    • Maturity

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
    • Psychology(all)
    • Psychiatry and Mental health
    • Law

    Cite this

    Adolescents' cognitive capacity reaches adult levels prior to their psychosocial maturity : Evidence for a "maturity gap" in a multinational, cross-sectional sample. / Icenogle, Grace; Steinberg, Laurence; Duell, Natasha; Chein, Jason; Chang, Lei; Chaudhary, Nandita; Di Giunta, Laura; Dodge, Kenneth A.; Fanti, Kostas A.; Lansford, Jennifer E.; Oburu, Paul; Pastorelli, Concetta; Skinner, Ann T.; Sorbring, Emma; Tapanya, Sombat; Tirado, Liliana M.Uribe; Alampay, Liane P.; Al-Hassan, Suha M.; Takash, Hanan M.S.; Bacchini, Dario.

    In: Law and Human Behavior, Vol. 43, No. 1, 01.02.2019, p. 69-85.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    Icenogle, G, Steinberg, L, Duell, N, Chein, J, Chang, L, Chaudhary, N, Di Giunta, L, Dodge, KA, Fanti, KA, Lansford, JE, Oburu, P, Pastorelli, C, Skinner, AT, Sorbring, E, Tapanya, S, Tirado, LMU, Alampay, LP, Al-Hassan, SM, Takash, HMS & Bacchini, D 2019, 'Adolescents' cognitive capacity reaches adult levels prior to their psychosocial maturity: Evidence for a "maturity gap" in a multinational, cross-sectional sample', Law and Human Behavior, vol. 43, no. 1, pp. 69-85. https://doi.org/10.1037/lhb0000315
    Icenogle, Grace ; Steinberg, Laurence ; Duell, Natasha ; Chein, Jason ; Chang, Lei ; Chaudhary, Nandita ; Di Giunta, Laura ; Dodge, Kenneth A. ; Fanti, Kostas A. ; Lansford, Jennifer E. ; Oburu, Paul ; Pastorelli, Concetta ; Skinner, Ann T. ; Sorbring, Emma ; Tapanya, Sombat ; Tirado, Liliana M.Uribe ; Alampay, Liane P. ; Al-Hassan, Suha M. ; Takash, Hanan M.S. ; Bacchini, Dario. / Adolescents' cognitive capacity reaches adult levels prior to their psychosocial maturity : Evidence for a "maturity gap" in a multinational, cross-sectional sample. In: Law and Human Behavior. 2019 ; Vol. 43, No. 1. pp. 69-85.
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    abstract = "All countries distinguish between minors and adults for various legal purposes. Recent U.S. Supreme Court cases concerning the legal status of juveniles have consulted psychological science to decide where to draw these boundaries. However, little is known about the robustness of the relevant research, because it has been conducted largely in the U.S. and other Western countries. To the extent that lawmakers look to research to guide their decisions, it is important to know how generalizable the scientific conclusions are. The present study examines 2 psychological phenomena relevant to legal questions about adolescent maturity: cognitive capacity, which undergirds logical thinking, and psychosocial maturity, which comprises individuals' ability to restrain themselves in the face of emotional, exciting, or risky stimuli. Age patterns of these constructs were assessed in 5,227 individuals (50.7{\%} female), ages 10-30 (M = 17.05, SD = 5.91) from 11 countries. Importantly, whereas cognitive capacity reached adult levels around age 16, psychosocial maturity reached adult levels beyond age 18, creating a {"}maturity gap{"} between cognitive and psychosocial development. Juveniles may be capable of deliberative decision making by age 16, but even young adults may demonstrate {"}immature{"} decision making in arousing situations. We argue it is therefore reasonable to have different age boundaries for different legal purposes: 1 for matters in which cognitive capacity predominates, and a later 1 for matters in which psychosocial maturity plays a substantial role.",
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