The Worst of Both Worlds: Risk Taking, Violence, and the Transitional Age Brain

The Worst of Both Worlds: Risk Taking, Violence, and the Transitional Age Brain
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1Module 1
Recorded on: 2020-09-10
Unit 1Slide Deck: The Worst of Both Worlds
Unit 2Transcript - The Worst of Both Worlds
Unit 3Workbook - The Worst of Both Worlds
Unit 4Recording: The Worst of Both Worlds

Juvenile justice has made progress over the last century in terms of defining the age of criminal liability. While there are still areas that require fine-tuning, the understanding of neurosciences, looking at brain development and how it impacts an individual’s behavior and decision-making particularly in the transitional age,  has made leaps and bounds in providing children and youth with protection and systems better-suited to address their needs.

Leading the discussion about the transitional age brain is Sandra K. Antoniak. She is a triple diplomate of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology licensed to practice psychiatry in New York, Massachusetts, New Mexico, and Iowa. She is a peer-reviewed author of articles related to forensic psychiatry and provides psychiatric care in juvenile and adult corrections and community clinics. She also offers consultancy services for various government agencies, is active in various local and international organizations, and has been called as an expert witness in high-profile cases.

Points she discussed in this session are:

  • Understanding neurodevelopment from conception to the transitional age.
    • The growing and changing nature of the brain and its functions.
    • The limbic brain and frontal lobe – how these systems work.
    • The critical role of time in brain development.
    • The earliest phases of brain development in Neurulation and growth of gray matter which slows down with age.
  • How signals get transmitted in the brain and how these are expressed in human behavior and movement.
  • The different neurotransmitters and their roles which make up the complex system in the brain.
  • The Goldilocks principle and the concept of stress optimization/spectrum of performance.
  • The concept of epigenetics, how physical, biological, and social environments can alter how genes function, and its potential consequences.
  • Zeroing in on the transitional age and the brain processes and development that take place around this period.
  • The concept of transitional age mismatch.
    • The conflict between the impulsive/emotional and rational lobes of the brain.
    • The behavioral manifestations and outcomes of the transitional age mismatch.
    • The various psychiatric disorders that may start or worsen around this period.
    • The reasons why this period is critical in brain development despite the risks that it poses.
  • The history and progress related to juveniles in criminal court.
    • Defining the age of criminal liability.
    • The structures and systems created to cater specifically for children and youth.
    • The legal protections afforded in more recent times to those within the transitional age.
    • Reviewing cases that paved the way to what juvenile justice looks like today.

Topics raised during the Q&A are on:

  • Applying the knowledge of brain development in the transitional age in the legal/justice system.
  • Resources on brain growth, ADHD progression from childhood to adulthood, and ADHD manifestation.
  • The adverse impact of cannabis exposure in children.
  • How to present in court the influence of parents on the behavior exhibited by children.



Resources and Handouts


Audience Comments

  • “More than anything, it just confirmed the other data that I have seen on the age of brain maturity. Excellent speaker!” — Therese
  • “I learned how important it is to appreciate chronological age, maturational factors, neurodevelopmental influences, and recreational drug use in working with young people on probation.  Excellent presentation!” — Susan
  • “I think if we, as service providers, better understand how the brain develops and functions, we can get a better sense of how to address the defendant’s behaviors which led to the criminal justice system. I thought Dr. Antoniak was able to present in layman’s terms rather than medical jargon to be very helpful. I thought the presentation was well-done…  overall, Dr. Antoniak was very knowledgeable.” — Susan
  • “I thought the presenter did a wonderful job of presenting the medical terminology in understandable language. I loved hearing about some of the court cases. I am hoping that she will present additional webinars.” — Ashley
  • “Learning that the brain continues to grow into late 20s and/or 30s so these behaviors can continue to be seen into adulthood, I work in Adult Protective Services so knowing that some of the younger adults I run into may be dealing with these behaviors will be very helpful in how I approach them and interact with them.” — Mary
  • “I am fascinated by this topic as a juvenile court counselor and as a mother to think of how “grown” we believe these kids to be and how grown they believe themselves to be only to be faced with the stark reality that their brain development is not as far along as typically thought. I was able to recognize a lot of behaviors exhibited by my own 15-year-old son throughout various aspects of this training.” — Kimberly
  • “We find there is a fine line between a child under 16 with probable ADHD already labeled as a “Bad Child” in school. Sometimes it is family issues where attention-getting bad actions to get a response, otherwise, there is no response. We try and sit down with parents in the room and out of the room to learn more about what it is like for the child at home. I really enjoyed the explanation of the growth of the brain from infant to adolescent, this was new to me. Thank you, great webinar!” — Kathleen
  • “Excellent presentation. Well organized, informative, and, easy to follow. Thank you for your hard work. It is obvious this is a passion of yours, not just a job.” — Amber



Additional Resources
3 years ago
After the Webinar The Worst of Both Worlds: Q&A with Dr. Sandra Antoniak
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