Children and Criminal Intent

Case Study #1 James M. Bufford Liberty University Online 11/18/12 This week’s case study was very interesting from a developmental standpoint. It seems to be a rather blanket statement of our legal system to say that children under 7 are not held responsible for crimes and that a 6 year-old cannot form criminal intent. My personal opinion is that children differ in their maturity levels (some may act older, others younger, developmentally). However, with that opinion, I can see the argument of: Who determines that maturity level? What is that determination based upon?
What research has been done to prove this? Therefore, we must refer to what has been proven through the many years of research of biosocial development. According to our text, the prefrontal cortex (sometimes called the frontal cortex or frontal lobe) is said to be the executive of the brain because all the other areas of the cortex are ruled by the planning, prioritizing and reflection in the prefrontal cortex. Still, this area must be developed-or mature-over the years; this development occurs through genetics and early experience (Berger, 2011, pg. 15). In this case, it seems the early experience of growing up around those that were most likely careless and irresponsible with guns, had a major impact on the boys life. Maybe he was taught to shoot in the backyard? All of this could be considered what Vygotsky considered to be “Social Learning”-which could also lead to the child being curious about guns and observant about how they are to be used, as well as being “mentored” by his loved ones who were also in prison on gun-related charges (Berger, 2011, pg. 240). Maybe he feared his classmate?
This may have led to him taking the gun to school, being afraid of confrontation. The interaction of the amygdala and the hippocampus can cause fear to be either constructive (causing a child to use good judgement); or, in this case, destructive, allowing fear and misplaced anger to take over their emotions and act out on what he’s seen other family members do (shooting a gun) (Berger, 2011, pg. 217). Perseveration, the tendency to persevere in, or stick to, one thought or action for a long time (Berger, 2011, pg. 216), may have also played a role in the child carrying out this action of shooting his classmate.

The fact that he was able to remember overnight to take the gun to school and use it the next day. Acknowledging, once again, the childs’ upbringing, maybe he was encouraged to be like his other family members? This could be a natter of gaining extrinsic motivation, which is a drive, or reason to pursue a goal, that arises from the need to have one’s achievements rewarded outside, perhaps by receiving material possessions or another person’s esteem (Berger, 2011, pg. 267). This, as well, is crucial to consider when looking at all the factors that went into the child committing this crime.
Who knows how long this lifestyle was embedded into his young, impressionable mind! There were so many variables that contributed to this unfortunate situation. The fact that he ran into the corner after pulling the trigger shows that maybe when he got in trouble at home, he was sent to the corner as a way of punishment. His actions after the crime showed he carried on as a child, not realizing the significance and danger of what just occurred due to his impulsiveness in the moment of anger. REFERENCES Berger, 2011. The Developing Person Through The Life Span. New York, NY. Worth Publishers

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