Courts must allow for tough childhoods

Difficulties endured during childhood should be taken into account when the legal system deals with adolescent crimes. This is the suggestion of new findings to be presented as part of an Economic and Social Research Council seminar series, which is being held in tandem with the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.

The report noted there has to be more focus placed on new neuroscience discoveries that suggest the likelihood of a young person breaking the law might be increased by the impact a tough upbringing can have on the development of their brain.

A wave of new research has considered these issues, with a team led by Dr Eamon McCrory of the University of London discovering a chaotic home life might lead to a youngster becoming extra vigilant when their environment is threatened.

An investigation by Oxford University's Dr Seena Fazel, meanwhile, has found traumatic brain injury (TBI) can increase the risk of violent crime involvement, while the University of Exeter's Professor Huw Williams discovered 45 per cent of adolescent-age criminals have a history of TBI. 

Professor Williams, a Chartered Psychologist, says: "A difficult social background may put them at greater risk of offending and influence their brain development early on in childhood in a way that increases risky behaviour."