Date of Award

Fall 2007

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Victoria Banyard


The question of adolescent decision maturity holds significant ramifications for today's youth. When adolescents are viewed as competent, rational decision makers, they may be considered mature enough to make decisions in their best interest in criminal court (Grisso, 1997) and are held fully culpable for their crimes. In contrast, when adolescents are viewed as immature decision makers, they may be considered less competent to make criminal decisions, and thus may not be considered fully culpable for their crimes (Woolard, Reppucci, & Redding, 1996). The present study is based on responses to hypothetical vignettes and measures maturity of judgment (Scott, Reppucci, & Woolard, 1995; Steinberg & Cauffman, 1996) via standardized scales and qualitative analyses of open-ended responses. This work investigates the relations between maturity of judgment, consequential thinking, and participation in delinquent behaviors in adolescents (ages12-18), adults (ages 35-63), and delinquent youth (ages 14-17). Results suggest that adolescents and adults differ significantly on the judgment factors that influence their decisions and their decision processes. However, adolescent within-group differences stemmed from the outcome xv expectancy that sensation seeking was a reason TO engage in antisocial behavior, and from differences on consequential thinking variables. In all, findings suggests that for adolescents, but not adults, the domains most central to the endorsement of antisocial decisions are outcome expectancies related to peers, sensation seeking, negative emotion, short term benefits, lack of risk, and over-emphasis on said positive expectancies. Further, exploratory analyses showed external validity for the study's qualitative coding. Taken together, the results of this study offer the potential to inform adolescent-focused legal policies and interventions.