Employed Teens Working Long Hours Struggle In School

Working part-time during the school year has been a major part of American adolescence for more than 30 years. The current study evaluates data from a prior study and takes a look at working 10th and 11th grade students. It was found that those working more than 20 hours per week showed reduced activity in school, and an increase in drug and alcohol use compared with those not working. On the contrary, those working less than 20 hours a week had insignificant effects on school activities and behavioral outcomes.

Employment during schooling is common and some students work more than 20 hours a week. Previous studies analyzing the effects of parallel work during the school year were inconsistent and lacked consensus on whether it was detrimental to the students. Earlier studies in the 1980s questioned the theory that working helps bring about “responsible behavior” and discourages delinquency. It discovered instead that rigorous employment resulted in lower achievement and more problem behavior.  In the current review, data from a previous study was re-analyzed and a newer statistical analysis was performed.

* The data used in this study was from a previous study and it consisted of 1,792 students who were enrolled in 10th or 11th grades.
* Two surveys regarding performance in school, behavior, presence of depression, autonomy from parents and psychosocial development were assessed.
* The nature of the part-time job and total number of hours spent were assessed. School performance was determined by assessing completion of homework, concentration in class, cutting class and engagement in school activities.
* All data was statistically analyzed for a relationship.

* Individuals working at moderate intensity had similar school performance when compared to those not working.
*Those working at high-intensity had lower school   engagement and higher levels of substance use.
* Students who stopped working paid more attention in school.
* Those working more than 20 hours a week had reduced homework times and were more indifferent during class hours.

Next steps/shortcomings
Identifying those with high-intensity employment was prioritized in this study, however only 16 percent of the individuals were employed. Classification of employment groups into subgroups was not possible. The information of employment status was not available between the two surveys. It also wasn’t possible to assess whether performance in the studies changed due to employment changes or whether study was independent of employment.

High-intensity work (over 20 hours per week) has a major negative impact on school children. This has been highlighted in this one-year study; and could mean worse results on further working hours. ”Although working during high school is unlikely to turn law-abiding teenagers into felons or cause students to flunk out of school, the magnitude of the adverse effects reported here is not trivial.” Thus, it is important to identify mechanisms that could minimize the consequences of high-intensity work during school.

For More Information:
Revisiting the Impact of Part-Time Work on Adolescent Adjustment: Distinguishing Between Selection and Socialization Using Propensity Score Matching
Publication Journal: Child Development, January/February 2011
By Kathryn C. Monahan; Joanna M. Lee; School of Social Work, University of Washington, Seattle and the University of Virginia

*FYI Living Lab Reports Are Summaries of the Original Research.
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