Working Adolescents

Whether an adolescent should be working during their high school years or not, one cannot be absolute with hiss answer.  These question can be best answered when one looks at its advantages and disadvantages, their workplace, nature of the job and number of hours should also  be considered.

I do believe there is a place for it provided that the workplace is owned by the family.  Exposing an adolescent to the nature of their own business, which in the later he has no choice but to be part of it, is of great advantage.  This is considering that in the early age he will be learning the mechanics, and system of the business which will prepare him for the future.

Though the problem would be, being a family member the tendency to over familiarity is unavoidable, and the person can be a subject to exploitation in terms of time, and may also be to mental harassment, through insults and words of impatience, just like in the outside workplace when  in the midst, crisis will arise employers tend to hurl insults.  Tendency to abuses is really existing elsewhere!

Inevitably the high school years are crucial to the social and emotional development of both boys and girls.  Although there are benefits one can earn when working while adolescent, such that it provides lessons , punctuality, to some degree independence, interacting with the public, and the list goes on, and for sure finances. (Moskowitz, 2000).

However, Fineran (2002) reported that a study was conducted and results described adolescents experiencing with sexual harassment while working part time and attending high school.  In a sample of 712 high school students, 25% of the 372 students while working part-time report experiencing sexual harassment.

And effects of sexual harassment during a first job showed may also negatively affect a child’s self-esteem, and self confidence, anger, irritability, social isolation helplessness and anxiety, depression, tension, and nervousness (Fitgerald,1933), Gutek and Koss(1993) proposed a posttraumatic stress disorder model for understanding the mental health consequences of sexual harassment.

(Moskowitz, 2000) also added that it would also affect the adolescent’s identity formation in addition to placing him or her in physical danger of assault and trauma.  Results revealed that there are difference in the experience of sexual harassment by gender, work relation, and emotional reaction.

Fineran (2002) furthermore reported that girls are significantly more upset and threatened by the sexual harassment they experienced at work than boys.

The same report mentioned that mental harassment also occurs when they are insulted by their supervisors, coworkers and customers.  Looking to these, both are detrimental to the development of adolescence to adulthood.  A negative impact has somehow embedded in them.

In an article entitled Adolescent in the Workplace, stated that indeed working has been shown to be associated with both positive and negative consequences for adolescents. Working may increase responsibility, self-esteem, and independence and may help children and adolescents learn valuable work skills.

Employment that is limited in intensity (usually defined as 20 hours or less per week) during high school years has been found to promote postsecondary educational attainment. Many studies show positive links between working during high school and subsequent vocational outcomes, including less unemployment, a longer duration of employment after completing schooling, and higher earnings.

However, high-intensity work (usually defined as more than 20 hours per week) is associated with unhealthy and problem behaviors, including substance abuse and minor deviance, insufficient sleep and exercise, and limited time spent with families.

Furthermore, children and adolescents may be exposed to many work-related hazards that can result in injury, illness, or death. Their inexperience, as well as physical, cognitive, and emotional developmental characteristics, may also play a part in the risk of injury faced by young workers.

Injury may also result from a physical mismatch between the size of the child or adolescent and the task: for example, machinery that was designed for adult males may be too large or heavy for children or adolescents to handle safely.

According to NIOSH the most common types of injuries and illness are sprains and strains, cuts and lacerations, contusions and abrasions, heat burns, and fractures and dislocations.  R. Belville, S. H. Pollack, J. H. Godbold and P. J.

Landrigan concluded that occupational injuries are substantial and under recognized contributor to the continuing epidemic of injury among adolescent.

Besides Rosalie Bakken in her article entitles Ups and Downs mentioned that although it is widely believed that having a job builds character in young people, it can also provide to learn specific job skills, save money for college, develop trusting and healthy relationships with non-family adults, and experience feelings of reward and intellectual stimulation.

But the same studies showed that employment does not necessarily lead to healthy social or moral development. This is especially true when a young person’s very first experience in the work force involves stress, long hours, and menial tasks.

Most jobs held by youth do not provide many opportunities for youth to think creatively or to solve challenging problems or make independent decisions. In addition, research has shown that earning an independent income does not mean that youth are learning to use their money wisely. In fact, their personal income may provide working adolescents with greater opportunities to purchase alcohol, drugs or cigarettes.

Rosalie Bakken also cited that a notable characteristic of working adolescents is that they move in and out of the labor market, changing jobs and work schedules frequently, in response to changes in employers’ needs, labor market conditions, and circumstances in their own lives.

This to some degree makes them very unstable and unstructured, leading to very unorganized life, without routines in schedule and activities.  Looking for another job, to cope with loses financially, has added to the tensions and pressures in schools and even in this area of his life -working as adolescent.

Considering that an adolescent needs to do good in his studies and at the same time be working for several hours, in addition to his load in school means a lot of pressure to an adolescent.

And may therefore distract him from his studies and his focus will be divided, which is to the advantage both to him, and the teacher who will be relating with him in all his academic requirements. In fact it was also shown that a high level of work during adolescence has been found to be associated with decreased eventual educational attainment.

Although on sessions where the teachers discuss on social awareness, the teacher may enjoy interacting with him, considering his exposure in the workplace.

For the parents, the fact that they are relieve in some sense in supporting to their adolescence, their sense of dignity as a provider also diminishes, and since the child spends time outside in school added with the time in work lessen their time together.  This is of very great disadvantage, the fact that the child should be learning and be influenced a lot from their parents at this age, instead they got it from the workplace.

However, in the midst of working institutions so much abuses and harassment are going on, which I would say not an advantage for an adolescent to work.

If working is the only solution that an adolescent can enter and sustain his way to high school, then I believe he should.  Though it really means a lot of difficulties.  When he dares to, as much as possible things should be defined and determine carefully.

The determining factors are the type of job an adolescent takes, and the number of hours worked. The job should be meaningful to the teen in some genuine way, and it should not interfere with time needed for schoolwork or family interaction. Teenagers’ needs for adequate nutrition, exercise and rest should not be compromised by a job. (Bakken, 2001)

Teens should look for a job that will be challenging, interesting, and that will provide them with opportunities to use the skills they have and learn new ones. The job atmosphere should be supervised by an adult and should allow the adolescent to come into frequent contact with healthy adult role models. (Mortimer et al, 1996)

Finally, working adolescents should not also relate with their parents their work experiences, allow the to monitor any changes in their grades, attitudes, or behaviors.


Bakken, Rebecca, Ph.D. 2001. Adolescents at Work. From the  Ups and Downs of Adolescents: A Newsletter about and for Young People, Parents and Concerned Adults.

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