Jeremy Staff and Christopher Uggen. 2003. "The Fruits of Good Work: Early Work Experiences and Adolescent Deviance." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40:263-90.




Some theories of crime suggest that “adult-like” work conditions will diminish adolescent delinquency, whereas others suggest that a precocious entry into adult work roles will increase youth problem behaviors. We consider the relationship between delinquency and several dimensions of adolescent employment, including learning opportunities, freedom and autonomy, status, demands and stress, wages, and the compatibility between work and school. More specifically, we ask: (1) Do these early work conditions affect adolescent deviance net of the number of hours worked and self-selection processes? (2) If so, are “adult-like” work environments harmful or beneficial for adolescents? And, (3) which employment dimensions are the most important for theory and research on crime and delinquency? We find the lowest rates of 12th grade school deviance, alcohol use, and arrest among adolescents whose jobs supported rather than displaced academic roles and provided opportunities for them to learn new things. In contrast, many qualities of work considered desirable for adults (autonomy, social status, and wages) appear to increase delinquency in adolescence. We conclude that work conditions have age-graded effects on delinquency that are contingent on the life course stage of the worker.