"We are also normal humans, you know?" Views and attitudes of juvenile delinquents on antisocial behavior, neurobiology and prevention

D. Horstkötter*, R. Berghmans, C. de Ruiter, A. Krumeich, G. de Wert

*Corresponding author for this work

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This paper presents and discusses the views and attitudes of juvenile delinquents regarding the implications of genomics and neurobiology research findings for the prevention and treatment of antisocial behavior. Scientific developments in these disciplines are considered to be of increasing importance for understanding the causes and the course of antisocial behavior and related mental disorders. High expectations exist with regard to the development of more effective prevention and intervention. Whether this is a desirable development does not only depend on science, but also on the ethical and social implications of potential applications of current and future research findings. As this pilot study points out, juvenile delinquents themselves have rather mixed views on the goals and means of early identification, prevention and treatment. Some welcome the potential support and help that could arise from biologically informed preventive and therapeutic measures. Others, however, reject the very goals of prevention and treatment and express worries concerning the risk of labeling and stigmatization and the possibility of false positives. Furthermore, interventions could aim at equalizing people and taking away socially disapproved capacities they themselves value. Moreover, most juvenile delinquents are hardly convinced that their crime could have been caused by some features of their brain or that a mental disorder has played a role. Instead, they provide social explanations such as living in a deprived neighborhood or having antisocial friends. We suggest that the hopes and expectations as well as the concerns and worries of juvenile delinquents are relevant not only for genomics and neurobiology of antisocial behavior, but also for prevention and intervention measures informed by social scientific and psychological research. The range of patterns of thought of juvenile delinquents is of great heuristic value and may lead to subsequent research that could further enhance our understanding of these patterns. (c) 2012 Elsevier Lid. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)289-297
JournalInternational Journal of Law and Psychiatry
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

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