Age, Work Quality, and Deviance: Addressing the Effects of Work Quality on Problem Behaviors in Adolescence

Jeremy Staff, University of Minnesota
Christopher Uggen, University of Minnesota

We examine the work and delinquency relationship in the early life course by addressing: (1) the effects of work quality on delinquency in adolescence, and (2) whether work quality can moderate the well-established positive correlation between work intensity and problem behaviors. We consider several dimensions of adolescent employment, including opportunities for learning and advancement, job security, earnings, job autonomy, work-derived status from peers, the demands and stress of work, and the perceived compatibility between work and school, to examine which components of work influence rates of substance use, school misconduct, and arrest among a sample of 12th grade students. We find that work quality has little effect on adolescent deviance, and that work quality does little to moderate the positive effects of work intensity on substance use and school misconduct. In contrast, the qualities of work that reduce arrest, recidivism, substance use, and depressed mood in adults (i.e. job autonomy, earnings, status, and security) increase substance use and minor delinquency in adolescence. More generally, this analysis suggests the effect of work quality on delinquency is conditional on the age of the worker.

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Updated 05/20/2006