It has emerged that high school students who work more than 20 hours a week during the school year could face academic and behaviour problems.
That's the finding of a new study by researchers at the University of Washington, University of Virginia, and Temple University.
In a reanalysis of longitudinal data collected in the late 1980s, researchers examined the impact of getting a job or leaving work among middle-class teens in 10th and 11th grades. Drawing from the full sample of about 1,800 individuals, the researchers compared adolescents who got jobs to similar teens who didn't work, and adolescents who left jobs to similar teens who kept working.
Using advances in statistical methods, the researchers matched the teens on a long list of background and personality characteristics that are known to influence whether or not a young person chooses to work; using this technique allowed more certainty in estimating the effects of working on adolescents' development than in the original analysis of the data.
The researchers found that working for more than 20 hours a week was associated with declines in school engagement and how far adolescents were expected to go in school, and increases in problem behavior such as stealing, carrying a weapon, and using alcohol and illegal drugs. They also found that things didn't get better when teens who were working more than 20 hours a week cut back their hours or stopped working altogether. In contrast, working 20 hours or less a week had negligible academic, psychological, or behavioral effects.
"Although working during high school is unlikely to turn law-abiding teenagers into felons or cause students to flunk out of school, the extent of the adverse effects we found is not trivial, and even a small decline in school engagement or increase in problem behavior may be of concern to many parents," noted Kathryn C. Monahan, a postdoctoral research scientist at the University of Washington, who led the study.
The study has been published in the issue of the journal Child Development.