drive thruOne of the ways to keep at-risk students out of trouble is for them to work part time.  It gives them something to do; it gives them a little money; and it gives them a sense of purpose and self-worth.  There are drawbacks, however.  An article, “Young Offenders Who Work, Don’t Attend School May be Antisocial,” on the Science Daily website describes a new study about juvenile offenders who work.

Researchers from the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and the University of California, Irvine shared their findings in the journal, Child Development.  They acknowledge that working long hours during the school year has a negative impact on adolescents from middle- and upper-income families, but there wasn’t much information about how working during the school year affects at-risk teens.

For five years, the researchers studied the following for each of the 1,350 serious juvenile offenders, aged 14 to 17:

  • Monthly information about employment
  • School attendance
  • Antisocial behavior

The subjects of the study exhibited various forms of antisocial behavior:

  • Beating up somebody
  • Purposely destroying or damaging property
  • Knowingly buying or selling stolen goods
  • Previously convicted of a felony or serious non-felony offense (misdemeanor sexual assault or weapons offense)

Not surprisingly, the study showed that “going to school regularly without working was associated with the least antisocial behavior, and high-intensity employment (defined as more than 20 hours a week) was associated with diminished antisocial behavior only among youths who also attended school regularly.”  This suggests that teens who work long hours and who don’t attend school regularly are most likely to exhibit antisocial behavior.

The researchers assert that having adolescents work as a means of improving antisocial behavior should be done with cautions.  Kathryn Monahan, lead researcher for this study and assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh believes that employment helps adults, but “placing juvenile offenders in jobs without ensuring that they also attend school may exacerbate, rather than diminish, their antisocial behavior.”