The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

A model for analyzing and grading the quality of scientific authorities presented to state legislative committees

A model for analyzing and grading the quality of scientific authorities presented to state legislative committees
A model for analyzing and grading the quality of scientific authorities presented to state legislative committees
Longitudinal studies have confirmed that human brains continue to mature and restructure throughout adolescence, with the prefrontal cortex – responsible for executive functions – maturing into an individual’s twenties.1  Studies examining adolescent decision-making demonstrate that young people prioritize rewards when assessing risk,2  take more risks in ‘hot’ contexts3  and are more likely to take risks when in the presence of their peers. These findings have motivated arguments that the immaturity of an adolescent brain could impact on culpability for criminal offences; a point recognized by the US Supreme Court in 2005:

From a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed. Indeed, “[t]he relevance of youth as a mitigating factor derives from the fact that the signature qualities of youth are transient; as individuals mature, the impetuousness and recklessness that may dominate in younger years can subside.”5

Since 2007, states have begun to ‘Raise the Age’ and move towards a national consensus of 18 for the upper age limit of juvenile court jurisdiction. Vermont has even gone beyond this, raising the age limit to 20.6  Little is known, however, about the extent to which, one, the evidential body of adolescent brain science is informing this legislative movement, or, two, robust science is presented to legislative decision-makers and by whom. 
This paper presents a model, developed by Tempowski, for analyzing and grading the quality of scientific arguments (related to adolescent developmental neuroscience) and authorities presented to legislative committees examining ‘Raise the Age’ legislation. It has been applied to four states between 2000 and 2019: Connecticut, Vermont, Michigan and Wisconsin. The former two were selected as states which had already, or were repeatedly attempting, to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction above 18 and the latter two were states which, as of the beginning of the research in 2018, had not reached the national consensus of 18. Almost 700 pieces of evidence were analyzed. Using the model, each item was reviewed for, first, the quality of their scientific argument, by examining how a dominant theory was communicated, and second, the quality of the scientific authorities which underpinned their argument, by assessing criteria such as whether studies were peer-reviewed, performed in humans, randomized control trials or whether they were opinion-based. After grades were assigned for these two analyses, items were also categorized by author and a thematic analysis conducted. 
The model tells us that overall, although detailed scientific arguments about brain science and culpability are made to the legislature, poor quality evidence is provided to support these and, most often, there is a lack of scientific evidence entirely. Our research shows that campaign organizations, academia, religious groups, police chiefs and parents regularly provide testimony in this public process and that the themes of funding, recidivism and serious offences are repeatedly referenced.
This paper provides a summary of the results from Connecticut, Michigan, Vermont and Wisconsin. Part I provides context through a discussion of the developing neuroscience and legal activity, Part II discusses the methodology of the analysis model and Part III offers conclusions about the quality of science referenced, who participates in the process of providing testimony to state legislative committees, and the themes discussed by these witnesses.

1.  Jay N. Giedd et al., Brain Development During Childhood and Adolescence: A Longitudinal MRI Study, 2 Nat. Neurosci. 861 (1999) [hereinafter Brain Development During Childhood and Adolescence]; Jay N. Giedd, Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Adolescent Brain, 1021 ANN. N.Y. ACAD. SCI. 77 (2004) [hereinafter Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Adolescent Brain].

2.   Margo Gardner & Laurence Steinberg, Peer Influence on Risk Taking, Risk Preference, and Risky Decision Making in Adolescence and Adulthood: An Experimental Study, 41 DEV. PSYCHOL. 625 (2005); L.H. Somerville, et al., Frontostriatal Maturation Predicts Cognitive Control Failure to Appetitive Cues in Adolescents, 23 J. COGN. NEUROSCI. 2123 (2011).

3.    B. J. Casey, et al., The Adolescent Brain, 1124 ANN. N.Y. ACAD. SCI. 111 (2008).

4. Laurence Steinberg, A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk Taking, 28 Dev. Rev. 78 (2008).

5.   Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 570 (2005).

      6.     2018 Vt. Acts & Resolves No. 201 (increasing the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 20 as of 2022).
juvenile delinquency, legislative history, Science-policy interface
2154-6428
356-386
Tempowski, Rose
daf8e3a3-da04-4ee1-addc-751c3a0e5e1d
Lintern, Maxine
e0f683e3-8f20-42fb-920c-01488e28f529
Molloy, Jill
cf438469-35d3-4f59-9527-aa8d758e0a59
Cooper, Sarah L.
2b3bacb7-b1de-4572-9728-1bbe0c53c05b
Tempowski, Rose
daf8e3a3-da04-4ee1-addc-751c3a0e5e1d
Lintern, Maxine
e0f683e3-8f20-42fb-920c-01488e28f529
Molloy, Jill
cf438469-35d3-4f59-9527-aa8d758e0a59
Cooper, Sarah L.
2b3bacb7-b1de-4572-9728-1bbe0c53c05b

Tempowski, Rose, Lintern, Maxine, Molloy, Jill and Cooper, Sarah L. (2021) A model for analyzing and grading the quality of scientific authorities presented to state legislative committees. University of St. Thomas Journal of Law and Public Policy, 15 (1), 356-386, [10].

Record type: Article

Abstract

Longitudinal studies have confirmed that human brains continue to mature and restructure throughout adolescence, with the prefrontal cortex – responsible for executive functions – maturing into an individual’s twenties.1  Studies examining adolescent decision-making demonstrate that young people prioritize rewards when assessing risk,2  take more risks in ‘hot’ contexts3  and are more likely to take risks when in the presence of their peers. These findings have motivated arguments that the immaturity of an adolescent brain could impact on culpability for criminal offences; a point recognized by the US Supreme Court in 2005:

From a moral standpoint it would be misguided to equate the failings of a minor with those of an adult, for a greater possibility exists that a minor's character deficiencies will be reformed. Indeed, “[t]he relevance of youth as a mitigating factor derives from the fact that the signature qualities of youth are transient; as individuals mature, the impetuousness and recklessness that may dominate in younger years can subside.”5

Since 2007, states have begun to ‘Raise the Age’ and move towards a national consensus of 18 for the upper age limit of juvenile court jurisdiction. Vermont has even gone beyond this, raising the age limit to 20.6  Little is known, however, about the extent to which, one, the evidential body of adolescent brain science is informing this legislative movement, or, two, robust science is presented to legislative decision-makers and by whom. 
This paper presents a model, developed by Tempowski, for analyzing and grading the quality of scientific arguments (related to adolescent developmental neuroscience) and authorities presented to legislative committees examining ‘Raise the Age’ legislation. It has been applied to four states between 2000 and 2019: Connecticut, Vermont, Michigan and Wisconsin. The former two were selected as states which had already, or were repeatedly attempting, to raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction above 18 and the latter two were states which, as of the beginning of the research in 2018, had not reached the national consensus of 18. Almost 700 pieces of evidence were analyzed. Using the model, each item was reviewed for, first, the quality of their scientific argument, by examining how a dominant theory was communicated, and second, the quality of the scientific authorities which underpinned their argument, by assessing criteria such as whether studies were peer-reviewed, performed in humans, randomized control trials or whether they were opinion-based. After grades were assigned for these two analyses, items were also categorized by author and a thematic analysis conducted. 
The model tells us that overall, although detailed scientific arguments about brain science and culpability are made to the legislature, poor quality evidence is provided to support these and, most often, there is a lack of scientific evidence entirely. Our research shows that campaign organizations, academia, religious groups, police chiefs and parents regularly provide testimony in this public process and that the themes of funding, recidivism and serious offences are repeatedly referenced.
This paper provides a summary of the results from Connecticut, Michigan, Vermont and Wisconsin. Part I provides context through a discussion of the developing neuroscience and legal activity, Part II discusses the methodology of the analysis model and Part III offers conclusions about the quality of science referenced, who participates in the process of providing testimony to state legislative committees, and the themes discussed by these witnesses.

1.  Jay N. Giedd et al., Brain Development During Childhood and Adolescence: A Longitudinal MRI Study, 2 Nat. Neurosci. 861 (1999) [hereinafter Brain Development During Childhood and Adolescence]; Jay N. Giedd, Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Adolescent Brain, 1021 ANN. N.Y. ACAD. SCI. 77 (2004) [hereinafter Structural Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the Adolescent Brain].

2.   Margo Gardner & Laurence Steinberg, Peer Influence on Risk Taking, Risk Preference, and Risky Decision Making in Adolescence and Adulthood: An Experimental Study, 41 DEV. PSYCHOL. 625 (2005); L.H. Somerville, et al., Frontostriatal Maturation Predicts Cognitive Control Failure to Appetitive Cues in Adolescents, 23 J. COGN. NEUROSCI. 2123 (2011).

3.    B. J. Casey, et al., The Adolescent Brain, 1124 ANN. N.Y. ACAD. SCI. 111 (2008).

4. Laurence Steinberg, A Social Neuroscience Perspective on Adolescent Risk Taking, 28 Dev. Rev. 78 (2008).

5.   Roper v. Simmons, 543 U.S. 551, 570 (2005).

      6.     2018 Vt. Acts & Resolves No. 201 (increasing the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 20 as of 2022).

Text
A Model for Analyzing and Grading the Quality of Scientific Autho - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only
Request a copy

More information

Accepted/In Press date: 18 September 2020
Published date: October 2021
Keywords: juvenile delinquency, legislative history, Science-policy interface

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 456423
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/456423
ISSN: 2154-6428
PURE UUID: cdb8e66f-89bc-4b2f-9d0f-e7ef421f9d10

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 28 Apr 2022 16:41
Last modified: 23 Jul 2022 00:19

Export record

Contributors

Author: Rose Tempowski
Author: Maxine Lintern
Author: Jill Molloy
Author: Sarah L. Cooper

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×