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Effectiveness of Participation as a Defendant: The Attorney-Juvenile Client Relationship

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Recent changes in the processing of juveniles in the justice system place greater significance on children's capacities to participate in legal contexts. Effective participation as a defendant encompasses abilities beyond those legally required for adjudicative competence, which may nevertheless influence the quality and nature of a defendant's participation in the trial process. Based in developmental judgment theory, the current study compares 203 juveniles and 110 adults detained pre-trial using a hypothetical attorney-client vignette to examine how psychosocial factors are reflected in decision-making processes and link to decision outcomes and effective participation within the attorney-client relationship. Age-related differences in legally relevant decision-making processes and outcomes are identified, and implications for policy are made.