Chapter 6: Neurodisability and trauma in children and young people in contact with the law
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Violence in childhood is a multifaceted problem, which affects the child neurologically, psychologically, and socially during critical phases of development. In youth regularly exposed to violence and stress, their flight, fight, or freeze responses can become habitualised and together with a greater propensity for "in the moment" behaviour, can take the form of anti-social and eventual criminal behaviours. Further, neurodisabilities (including neurodevelopmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and additional insults to development) are rife among youth in these contexts and can serve as risk factors for earlier and more violent offending, increasing the likelihood of youth entering the criminal justice system. Against this backdrop, in this chapter we discuss normal brain development, and then consider the aetiology, prevalence, and symptoms of trauma and neurodisabilities in offenders. We then consider the screening for, and implications of neurodisability, and finally discuss rehabilitation and the importance of therapeutic rather than punitive criminal justice systems.

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