Prevention and Intervention

Children ages 10 and younger and the courts

When young children misbehave, the response must hold the child accountable but also take into account the age of the child. In Kentucky, more than 500 children ages 10 and younger in Kentucky were charged with an offense in 2010. It is known that the frontal lobe, or the decision making portion of the brain, does not fully develop until an individual is 25 years old. When children – especially young children – are making decisions, they often are basing them on impulses, rewards, and their peer group. Our response to their behavior should be reasonable and use what we know can be effective.

Children entering the justice system are 4 to 10 times more likely to enter the adult justice system. Handling a child’s misbehavior in the court system can permanently alter their path in life in a negative way. Thus, the Commonwealth should do all it can to prevent these children, especially those ages 10 and under, from being involved in the court system. Diverting cases from court to intensive services for young children who misbehave moves Kentucky down that path.