Law and Human Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 3, pp 183–193 | Cite as

“It’s a Rush”: Psychosocial Content of Antisocial Decision Making

Original Article


Changes in the juvenile justice system have led to more serious sanctioning of adolescents (Heilbrun, Goldstein, & Redding, 2005). A salient question for understanding whether such sanctions are appropriate pertains to whether adolescents are less mature than adults in making decisions that lead to antisocial activity. The current study codes for psychosocial content of antisocial decision making in adolescents (ages 12–17), young adults (18–23), and adults (ages 35–63). Results suggest that adolescents and young adults display increased psychosocial content in their antisocial decision making relative to adults. However, the unique effect of psychosocial content on self-report criminal behavior was significantly greater among adolescents than among adults, whereas for young adults this was not the case. Implications for legal policy are discussed.


Adolescents Decision making Juvenile delinquency Psychosocial maturity 



Special thanks to Victoria Banyard, Cesar Rebellon, Nancy Guerra, and Michelle Little for continued feedback on previous versions of this manuscript. Many thanks to Amanda Bemis, Eleanor Boisvert, Amanda Scott, and Rachel Ripperger for assistance in coding. I also wish to thank the Editor and a number of anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback, which contributed significantly to the completion of this manuscript. This research was funded in part by a dissertation year fellowship from the University of New Hampshire, grants-in-aid from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues and from the American Psychology-Law Association, and NIH Training Grant #T32 MH 018387.


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Copyright information

© American Psychology-Law Society/Division 41 of the American Psychological Association 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Prevention Research CenterArizona State UniversityTempeUSA

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