The impact of school year work on adolescent development

Nancy Fitzpatrick Weller, The University of Texas School of Public Health


In recent decades, work has become an increasingly common feature of adolescent life in the United States. Once assumed to be an inherently positive experience for youth, school year work has recently been associated with several adverse effects, especially as the number of hours of weekly work increases. The purpose of this dissertation was to describe the impact of school year work on adolescent development in a sample of high school students from rural South Texas, an area where economically-disadvantaged and Hispanic students are heavily represented. The first study described the prevalence and work circumstances of 3,565 10$\rm\sp{th}$ and 12$\rm\sp{th}$ grade students who responded to anonymous surveys conducted in regular classrooms. The overall prevalence of current work was 53%. Prevalence differed by grade, college-noncollege-bound status, and parent education. Fifty percent of employed students worked to support consumer spending. The second study examined the effects of four levels of work intensity on the academic, behavioral, social, mental and physical health of students. The following negative effects of intense work were reported: (1) decreased engagement in school, satisfaction with leisure time, and hours of weeknight and weekend sleep, and (2) increased health risk behaviors and psychological stress. The negative effects of intense work differed by gender, grade, ethnicity, but not by parent education. The third study described the prevalence of injury in the study population. A dose response effect was observed where increasing hours of weekly work were significantly related to work-related injury. The likelihood of being injured while employed in restaurant, farm/ranch, and construction work was greater than the probability of being injured while working in factory/office/skilled, yard, or retail work when compared to babysitting. Cuts, shocks/burns and sprains were the most common injuries in working teens. Students, parents, educators, health professionals and policymakers should continue to monitor the number of weekly hours that students work during the school year.

Subject Area

Public health|Occupational safety|Developmental psychology

Recommended Citation

Weller, Nancy Fitzpatrick, "The impact of school year work on adolescent development" (1997). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI9809554.