If teens are allowed to work for long hours in the wrong environment, it could take a toll on their sexual health, claims a new study.
The discovery is just one of the key findings in a University of Michigan study of youth on what predicts age of sex partners.
Jose Bauermeister, one of the study authors, said that age difference of sex partners is important, because a larger age difference is associated with riskier sexual behaviour and STDs, including HIV.
He further said that the study found that a youth's self esteem and alcohol use also play a role in the age difference between sex partners.
In the study, Bauermeister pointed out that overall, adolescents, who work part-time benefit in almost all areas over those who don't have jobs.
But he said that those benefits come with caveats.
For the study, the researchers followed youths in Flint, Mich. as they transitioned from adolescence to young adulthood (ages 14 thru 25), to see what factors predicted sex partner age difference.
It was found that many factors can lead to age differences in sex partners, with girls usually dating older than boys and young men.
Bauermeister said that working too many hours in an adult atmosphere without adequate supervision can lead to exposure to adults and eventually sexual activity with older partners, especially for young girls.
Age and number of work hours matter in adolescents, but any negative impact is not apparent after age 18 or 19, the study found.
"It's OK to let kids work. We want to make sure they are spending time in an environment where it's safe to work. Parents must ask the right questions and make sure it's a safe place for their children," said Bauermeister.
He said that high self esteem and low use of alcohol offset the negative effects of working too many hours. Those factors also protect youths overall from engaging in riskier sexual behaviour.
The study also found that girls tend to date older from age 14 on, as do high school dropouts and teens who use alcohol.
Boys at age 14 date their own age until they reach age 18, when they start dating younger women, said Bauermeister.
The study found that sex education programs and other efforts to reduce young sex partners' age differences should aim to enhance self-acceptance and academic achievement and decrease alcohol use