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Although the institution of the juvenile court developed rather recently in our legal system, it is now quite firmly established: every American state and nearly every industrialized nation has a juvenile court system in place. The juvenile court is not without its critics, however. In this Article, Professor Janet Ainsworth recommends its complete abolition. Professor Ainsworth contends that society's current view of the nature of adolescence no longer comports with the turn-of-the century view that originally informed the development of an autonomous juvenile court, thus undermining the ideological legitimacy of a separate court system for juveniles. In addition, Professor Ainsworth argues that, because of the availability of procedural safeguards in the adult court system and because of the greater opportunity for effective assistance of counsel in the adult courts, juveniles will, in fact, benefit from being tried within a unified criminal justice system. Using social constructivist theory as the foundation for her Article, Professor Ainsworth critically examines the changes in the social imagination of the nature of childhood and adolescence and proceeds to a reevaluation of one specific legal institution in light of that changed social construct Professor Ainsworth's analysis, however, has much broader implications for reshaping our legal system over time as society creates and recreates its collective notion of reality.


Excerpted in Barry Feld, CASES AND MATERIALS ON JUVENILE JUSTICE ADMINISTRATION (2000); also excerpted in Ellen Marrus and Irene Merker Rosenberg, CHILDREN AND JUVENILE JUSTICE (2007).