The Teenage Brain

Topic: The Developing Adolescent Brain and the Law   At last we know—at least in part—what accounts for some adolescent risk-taking and crazy behaviours. Their brains are still developing. In fact, the development is taking place in a critical part of the brain associated with rational thinking and decision making—the frontal lobes. What’s more, the emotional part of the brain—the limbic system—is particularly active (thanks, in part, to what is often referred to as “raging hormones”), while the thinking, planning, deciding part of the brain has not developed to the point that they have full control over their emotions.   We know this through brain imaging techniques that now allow us to see, in real time, brain activity while people are performing different activities. For instance, research shows that when processing emotional information, the teen’s limbic system is more active than the frontal lobe.   This research has found an interesting application in the legal system. Legislators and advocates are using the research to argue for changes in laws affecting teenagers. For instance, statistics have long shown that teenagers are much more prone to be involved in motor vehicle accidents. Pulling together the research on brain functioning with what we know about peer influence, some provinces have put limits on the number of passengers a teenage driver can have. The reasoning? Due to brain immaturity, teens may be less able to deflect peer pressure to take risks when driving—and the more peers present in the car, the greater the pressure.   Another area in which this research is being used is in laws that allow teenagers charged with serious crimes to be tried as adults. Is this fair, advocates ask, when teenagers still may have the minds of children? For years, psychologists have known that teenagers don’t have the cognitive understanding of adults when it comes to participating in trials. Now there is brain research to back it up. But do you agree?   For this discussion board exercise, we want you to select 1 peer reviewed journal, and 1 supporting scholarly literature to make your case regarding teenagers being tried as an adult or child.  Make sure to be very clear on which way the teenager should be tried in a court of law. Critically analyze the research surrounding this hot topic and use your critical thinking skills to step out of your comfort zone.   As a nurse you will encounter situations where you will be providing care to youth involved with the legal system. You will also be interacting with workers from the prison and young offenders’ system, and police officers, all of whom may have different views from your own. It is therefore critical to consider and reflect on the potential implications these encounters may have on your own values and beliefs.   Be sure to include one or more of the factors below in your discussions. These are examples but feel free to add a perspective or consideration that is not included on the list below.   The dilemma of confidentiality vs duty to report. What are the absolute exceptions? What are the potential implications of withholding information? Is it the nurse’s responsibility to share information disclosed in confidence? Why or why not? What best practice approach should the nurse facilitate? What about personal morals vs ethical values and the potential for moral distress/ moral dilemma? The professional ethical requirements of nurses as per the College of Nurses of Ontario (CNO). Should adolescents be in your care after an incident where charges have been laid, do you think this fact would affect the care you administer? Do you believe socio-economical/ socio-demographic factors (living in rural and remote communities) play a role in these instances? Why or why not? What are some alternative solutions that nurses can advocate for? What are some of the risk factors for incarceration at a young age? How does this factor into your approach/ opinion if at all? Historically individuals have feigned illnesses to escape criminal charges (e.g. DUIs – driving under the influence) and therefore present to the ER as they cannot legally be charged if experiencing a health episode. How do you think you would respond in such situations when caring for the individual? What is the obligation for nursing or any healthcare provider essentially “harboring a criminal” (meaning the obligation for nurses to admit or deny that a specified individual is indeed receiving care within their institution). In reflecting on some of these points, have they impacted your initial thoughts at the outset of this discussion? Share how you feel and what you believe matter?

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