University of Pittsburgh
December 20, 2012

Pitt Study Shows That Young Offenders Who Work More Than 20 Hours Weekly, But Do Not Attend School Regularly, Are More Antisocial


Sharon Blake


Cell: 412-277-6926


PITTSBURGH—While some people may argue that placing high-school-age juvenile offenders in jobs is a good thing, a new University of Pittsburgh study published online today shows that youths who work more than 20 hours weekly and do not attend school regularly display more antisocial behavior than do other high-school-age youth. 
The study, titled “Age Differences in the Impact of Employment on Antisocial Behavior” and conducted by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and the University of California, Irvine, appears online in the peer-reviewed journal Child Development
While research has been conducted on the effect of working on adolescent antisocial behavior in youths from middle- and upper-income families, much less is known about how employment during the school year affects youths from lower-socioeconomic-status homes, especially with regard to delinquent behavior.
Researchers interviewed 1,350 serious juvenile offenders between the ages of 14 and 17 and tracked them for five years. Information was gathered each month about the young persons’ employment, school attendance, and incidents of antisocial behavior. Those incidents ranged from beating up someone to buying or selling something they knew was stolen. The youths included in the study were African American (41.5 percent), Hispanic (33.5 percent), non-Hispanic Caucasian (20.2 percent), and from other groups (4.8 percent).
Going to school on a regular basis without working was associated with the least antisocial behavior. Going to school regularly and working more than 20 hours per week caused diminished antisocial behavior. Young people who worked more than 20 hours a week and went to school off and on were at the greatest risk for antisocial behavior, followed by the youths who worked long hours and had stopped going to school completely. These effects occurred during adolescence; by early adulthood, working more than 20 hours per week was related to fewer instances of antisocial behavior than those found in adolescents. 
“Our results suggest caution in recommending employment in and of itself as a remedy for adolescents’ antisocial behavior,” said lead researcher Kathryn Monahan, professor of psychology at Pitt, who coauthored the paper with Temple University’s Laurence Steinberg and the University of California, Irvine’s Elizabeth Cauffman.
“We found that for adolescents of high-school age, placing offenders in jobs without ensuring that they also attend school regularly exacerbates, rather than diminishes, their antisocial behavior,” Monahan said.
The study was supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention of the National Institute of Justice, the John and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the William T. Grant Foundation, the William Penn Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute on Drug Abuse, and the Arizona Governor’s Justice Commission.