begins early in life, is often in multiple contexts (e.g., home, community, school),
and persists over time . . . . For youth who do come to the attention of the
juvenile court, it is imperative that the system is prepared to meet the needs of
chronically traumatized youth with significant mental health problems.130
E. Impact on Youth
Understanding that not one specific factor results in delinquency, research reveals trauma
experience increases the likelihood of juvenile offending.131 Researchers have found correlations
between violence, traumatization, and misconduct among juveniles in detention.132 Thus, an
adolescent’s overreactive and risky trauma behaviors can lead to direct contact with the juvenile
These findings regarding child trauma are relevant in juvenile sentencing. In Roper,
Graham, and Miller, the Court relied on research regarding adolescence and brain development in
determining that juveniles should be treated differently than adults in regards to sentencing. That
research applied to all youth.134 While child trauma research also studies adolescence and brain
development, these findings apply only to youth who have been traumatized. Combining the
research shows that if all adolescents struggle with impulse control, peer pressure, and decision-making, then traumatized adolescents will struggle even more.135 Under Miller’s instructions to
consider the youth’s adverse experiences, juvenile judges, in sentencing, should certainly take the
additional limitations of child trauma into account. Though juvenile courts have not previously
had to explicitly consider child trauma in sentencing, other courts have addressed a similar
trauma issue. Some adult criminal, civil, and personal injury cases have considered one type of
trauma, PTSD, as a defense and in sentencing. This precedence offers guidance to juvenile court
IV. THE ADMISSIBILITY OF TRAUMA IN ADULT COURTS
The concept of trauma has slowly gained acceptance in the legal arena. In the wake of
the recent tragedies of 9/11 and the return of American troops from overseas,136 law professionals
have increasingly raised the issue of trauma, specifically PTSD, in court.137 Legal recognition of
130 Id. at 9.
131 FORD ET AL., supra note 122, at 3.
132 Matt DeLisi et al., The Cycle of Violence Behind Bars: Traumatization and Institutional Misconduct Among Juvenile Delinquents
in Confinement, 8 YOUTH VIOLENCE & JUV. JUST. 107, 108, 115-16 (2010) (finding that juvenile “wards with greater lifetime
exposure to traumatic events, such as experiencing a terrible event, experiencing intrusive memories of a terrible event, being in
danger of serious injury or death, witnessing serious injury or death, and being in danger of rape or actual rape victimization were
more noncompliant behind bars”). “The high trauma offenders engaged in nearly three times the suicidal activity, about 3. 5 times the
sexual misconduct, and 1. 3 times the total misconduct.” Id. at 114. See Kerig & Becker, supra note 84, at 2 (synthesizing research
connecting trauma and juvenile delinquency).
133 See BUFFINGTON ET AL., supra note 72; Bruce D. Perry & Erin P. Hambrick, The Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics,
RECLAIMING CHILD. & YOUTH, Fall 2008, at 38, 40.
134 See Steinberg, supra note 87, at 518.
135 A similar argument was made by the American Medical Association, et al. in its Roper Amicus Brief, where it argued, “To the
Extent That Adolescents . . . Suffer From Serious Psychological Disturbances That Substantially Exacerbate the Already Existing
Vulnerabilities of Youth, They Can Be Expected to Function at Sub-Standard Levels.” See Brief for the American Medical Ass’n et al.
as Amici Curiae Supporting Respondent at 20, Roper v. Simmons 543 U.S. 551 (2005) (No. 03-633) (emphasis added), available at
136 Appleyard & Osofsky, supra note 77, at 113; see Schecter & Willheim, supra note 73 (“The World Trade Center Attack in 2001
and the start of the Iraq war in 2003 literally brought home the impact of terrorism and war . . . .”).
137 Laurence Miller, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Criminal Violence: Basic Concepts and Clinical-Forensic Applications, 27
AGGRESSION & VIOLENT BEHAV. 354, 355-56 (2012).