Criminal Responsibility within Children

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Criminal Responsibility within Children
Misty M. Lane
PYSCH 210-B16
Liberty University

According to Berger (2011), early childhood is defined as the ages two through six. During this time the child does what he/she knows best and learns through the act of playing. However, what happens when a child accidentally commits a crime can cause controversy. The purpose of this case study is to determine at what age is a child held criminally responsible. The law states that children under the age of seven are not considered criminally responsible for committing a criminal act. Within this case study, we will explore and support why developmental factors within this age group support the legal system.

Criminal Responsibility within Children
In Michigan, a child at the age of six stole a weapon from his home and accidentally murdered a fellow student that he had argued in the past. When the child was questioned about the crime, he stated it was an accident and he was only trying to scare her. What role does development play in the decision making process at this age? According to Berger (2011), a child at the age of six lacks the brain maturation and development that would allow to purposefully commit a criminal act.

The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for the brain’s decisions. This includes proper planning, selecting, and coordinating. Maturation of the prefrontal cortex plays a major part in the development of children. Older children can think before they act, while children between the ages of two through six may act more on impulsiveness and what they think they are supposed to do. For example, the game, Simon Says, illustrates a child acting solely on impulsivity. The decision making process has not fully developed within a child of this age group. A critical key area of the brain, the pre-frontal cortex, which enables a child to control their actions and emotions, are still maturing during the crucial years...
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