Violation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: An analysis from a neurobiological point of view with regard to criminal behaviour


  • Birgit Thun



Criminal behaviour, in the case of persons below the age of 18 called delinquency, is a concept stemming from the legal field, according to which a person shows “conduct that does not conform to the legal or moral standards of society” (Deliquency, n.d.). The notion of antisocial behaviour in psychopathology features similar characteristics described as “behaviour usually marked by aggression but representing transgressions against societal norms” (Smith & Stern, 1997, p. 383). Chakraborty et al. confirm that criminal behaviour is defined by law, and that it is thus not usable in biology. This leads to the use of the notion of antisocial behaviour instead and the investigation thereof by researchers. They identify three ways of defining antisocial behaviour: the first one would be an equation with criminal behaviour and delinquency, which were explained above. This, however, seems to be problematic because a definition thereof changes over time and from one legal system to another. A second possibility is to investigate Antisocial Personality Disorder (ASPD) because it often involves the commission of criminal acts resulting from neglect of rights of fellow human beings. The third possible way of how to define antisocial behaviour is a focus on characteristics that are at risk for developing criminal behaviour, such as aggressiveness and impulsivity (Chakraborty et al., 2011, pp. 37-38). I am seeking to find out what is meant by holistic development from a neurobiological perspective and which consequences child maltreatment has on this development. In particular, I am focussing on criminal behaviour as a possible consequence. Hence, my research question states as follows: In how far does a violation of Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child lead to criminal behaviour?


Arnsten, A. F. T. (2009). Stress signalling pathways that impair prefrontal cortex structure and function. Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10, 410-422.

Attachment Synthesis (2012). In Encyclopedia on Early Child Development. Retrieved from:

Ayoub, C.C. & Rappolt-Schlichtmann, G. (2007). Child Maltreatment and the Development of Alternative Pathways in Biology and Behaviour. In D. Coch, G. Dawson & K. W. Fischer (Eds.), Human Behaviour, Learning, and the Developing Brain (pp. 305- 330). New York: The Guilford Press.

Bremner, D. (2008). The Neurobiology of Trauma and Memory in Children. In M. L. Howe, G.S. Goodman, & D. Cicchetti (Eds.), Stress, Trauma, and Children’s Memory Development (pp. 11-49). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Chakraborty, Dr., N. K., Upreti, P. N., & Mishra, A. (2011). Genetic and Environmental Influences on Criminal Behaviour. Calcutta Law Times, 1, 36-48.

Committee on the Rights of the Child (2011). General comment No. 13 – The right of the child to freedom from all forms of violence. New York: United Nations.

Davidson, R. J., Putnam, K. M., & Larson, C. L. (2000). Dysfunction in the Neural Circuitry of Emotion Regulation – A Possible Prelude to Violence. Science 289, pp. 591-594.

Delinquency (n.d.). In Encyclopaedia Britannica. Retrieved from:

English, D. J. & the LONGSCAN Investigators (1997). Modified Classification System (MMCS). Retrieved from:

Gervai, J. (2009). Environmental and genetic influences on early attachment. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 3.

Marazziti, D., Baroni, S., Landi, P., Ceresoli, D., & Dell’Osso, L. (2013). The neurobiology of moral sense: facts or hypotheses? Annals of General Psychiatry 12.

McCrory, E., De Brito, S. A., & Viding, E. (2010). Research Review: The neurobiology and genetics of maltreatment and adversity. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 1079-1095.

Mobbs, D., Lau, H. C., Jones, L. O., & Frith, C. D. (2007). Law, Responsibility, and the Brain. Retrieved from:

Navalta, C. P., Tomoda, A., & Teicher, M. H. (2008). Trajectories of Neurobehavioral Development. In M. L. Howe, G. S. Goodman, & D. Cicchetti (Eds.), Stress, Trauma, and Children’s Memory Development (pp. 11-49). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rodrigo, C., Rajapakse, S. & Jayanada, G. (2010). The “antisocial” person: an insight in to biology, classification and current evidence on treatment. Annals of General Psychiatry, 9.

Schmidt, M. (2010). United Nations. In Daniel Moeckli (Ed.), International Human Rights Law (pp. 391-431). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Siegel, A. (2005). The Neurobiology of Aggression and Rage. Boca Raton: CRC Press.

Silver, J. M., Anderson, K. E., & Yudorfsky, S. C. (2003). Violence and the Brain. In E. Todd & Farah, M. J. (Eds.), Behavioural Neurology & Neuropsychiology (pp. 755-762). New York: McGraw-Hill.

Smith, C. A. & Stern, S. B. (1997). Deliquency and Antisocial Behaviour: A Review of Family Processes and Intervention Research. Chicago Journals, 71, 382-420.

Steckler, T. (2005). The Neuropsychology of Stress. In T. Steckle, N. H. Kalin, & J. M. H. M. Reul (Eds.), Handbook of Stress and the Brain (pp. 25-42). Amsterdam: Elsevier.

Teeter Ellison, P. A. & Semrud-Clikeman, M. (2007). Child Neuropsychology – Assessment and Interventions for Neurodevelopmental Disorders. New York: Springer Science + Business Media.

Teicher, M. H., Andersen, S. L., Polcari, A., Anderson, C. M., Navalta, C. P., Kim, D. M. (2002).

Developmental neurobiology of childhood stress and trauma. Psychiatric Clinics of North America, 25, 397-426.

Teicher, M. H., Andersen, S. L., Polcari, A., Anderson, C. M., Navalta, C. P., Kim, D. M. (2003). The neurobiological consequences of early stress and childhood maltreatment. Neuroscience and Behavioural Reviews, 27, 33-44.

United Nations (1989). Convention on the Rights of the Child. New York: United Nations.

United Nations Treaty Collection (n.d.). Retrieved from: ViewDetails.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=IV-11&chapter=4&lang=en

Wallick, M. M. (1990). Developmental Sources of Stress. In J. D. Noshpitz & R. D. Coddington (Eds.), Stressors and the Adjustment Disorders (pp. 189-216). New York: Wiley & Sons.

Willems, J. (2012). It takes a SMECC to raise a child - Meeting Basic Developmental Needs of Newborn Persons. Retrieved from: