Why teenage jobs are good for your kids

October 27, 2017 by Marc-David L. Seidel Dennis Ma And Marjan Houshmand, The Conversation
Research shows that holding down a job as a teenager has real benefits later in life. Credit: Shutterstock

With the fall semester under way, parents and students are choosing extracurricular activities. Hockey? Chess club? Band? Recent research shows that another option —adolescent work experience —can pay big dividends later in life.

Many schools and parents push children to engage in excessive . Meanwhile, adolescent work has been increasingly categorized as non-desirable and only for those facing the demands of poverty. Yet more than 50 per cent of work, suggesting teen work is more than a product of income inequality.

In fact, recent research shows work experience has many positive impacts for all. Students can learn many life skills through working, and if teenage job opportunities are overlooked, they can miss out on many benefits. The benefits are both short-term and long-term.

Benefits of teen work

In research we report in Research in the Sociology of Work, we analyzed the Youth in Transition Survey data collected jointly by Statistics Canada and Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. The data represents 246,661 Canadian youth in 2009 tracked from the ages of 15 to 25. This long time frame allowed us to look at the longer term impacts of working as a teen.

Working year-round at the age of 15 led to a higher chance of being employed at 17 to 21. But what of the quality of the work? Those who worked year-round at 15 had higher incomes at ages 17 to 25, and at ages 21 to 23 had higher quality job matches.

Some of these benefits were even stronger when working for a family rather than a stranger. In fact, working in a family business led to further enhanced career networking and even better matched jobs later in life at the age of 25.

This is an important finding, considering roughly 45 per cent of Canadian youth report having worked in their family's business at some point. While this number may appear high, when you take into account that many children work in small family businesses or farms, it highlights the impact such work has on a wide swath of society.

Income increases based upon hours worked until a certain point. Authors
Benefits of working for the family business

In our recent Family Business Review article, we analyzed Statistics Canada data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth representing over 570,000 Canadian youth who were 16 to 17 years old in 2002-2003. We wanted to disentangle a puzzle that has plagued adolescent development literature and shown mixed impacts of working as a teenager.

Many previous studies assumed that working as a teen interferes with family time. These studies focus on the time trade-off work represents, and frame working as a negative influence on family relationships. But a large percentage of working teens work for a family business where they can spend time with family members while working. Our study separates out those who work for a family business from others.

Our findings show that those teens who worked year-round for their family business between the ages of 14 to 15 had a better relationship with their parents, which continued to get even better by the time they were 16 to 17.

The effects go beyond just their relationship with their parents. Previous studies report depression is a leading cause of illness and disability for teens.

Many extracurriculars do not give children enough opportunity to fail and build resilience. Many students are not learning the skills they need to succeed.

Self-esteem has previously been shown to be linked to resilience. In our study, those same teens who worked year-round for their between the ages of 14 to 15 had fewer incidents of depression and higher self-esteem at 16 to 17. These psychological benefits can be long lasting.

Too much of a good thing

But we caution that teens can also work too much. In the Research in the Sociology of Work piece we find that working too many hours starts to reduce the positive effects.

The potential benefits of adding work back into the extracurricular mix are immense, but things should be taken in moderation. Parents and teens should certainly consider work as a positive extracurricular experience, but not overdo it to the point of it hindering development.

And, of course, we do not condone exploitative work in any amount.

Explore further: Want better sleep? Spend face-to-face time with your friends and family

Related Stories

Summer McJobs are good for kids, study says

July 7, 2014

A new UBC Sauder School of Business study shows that teenagers who work at summer or evening jobs gain a competitive advantage later in life. Developing early knowledge of the working world and how to manage in it, they are ...

Parents' work schedules may impact family members' sleep

November 4, 2014

In a recent US study of 1,815 disadvantaged mothers and their children, mothers who worked more than 35 hours per week were more likely to experience insufficient sleep compared with mothers who worked fewer hours, while ...

Recommended for you

Archaeologists discover Incan tomb in Peru

February 16, 2019

Peruvian archaeologists discovered an Incan tomb in the north of the country where an elite member of the pre-Columbian empire was buried, one of the investigators announced Friday.

Where is the universe hiding its missing mass?

February 15, 2019

Astronomers have spent decades looking for something that sounds like it would be hard to miss: about a third of the "normal" matter in the Universe. New results from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory may have helped them ...

What rising seas mean for local economies

February 15, 2019

Impacts from climate change are not always easy to see. But for many local businesses in coastal communities across the United States, the evidence is right outside their doors—or in their parking lots.

The friendly extortioner takes it all

February 15, 2019

Cooperating with other people makes many things easier. However, competition is also a characteristic aspect of our society. In their struggle for contracts and positions, people have to be more successful than their competitors ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.