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Going to School and Not Working More Beneficial for Young Offenders

Update Date: Dec 21, 2012 09:25 AM EST

A new study suggests that placing juvenile offenders in jobs without persuading them to attend school may turn them more antisocial.

 Many high school students take up jobs apart from and in addition to going to school, and there are many who argue that taking up a job is good for at-risk youths.

However, according to the new study by researchers from University of Pittsburgh, Temple University, and the University of California, ensuring education rather than employment for at-risk youths is more important for them to be shaped as good citizens.

There is evidence that suggests working for long hours during the school year has negative effects on adolescent antisocial behavior among middle- and upper-income youths. But then nothing much is known about the effect of employment during schooling, particularly with respect to criminally inclined.

The researchers through this study, aimed at understanding how employment affects antisocial behavior among high-risk youths. For the study, the researchers observed around 1,350 serious juvenile offenders aged between 14 and 17.

The researchers then followed up on the subjects for the next five years and in the meantime, collected information about their employment, school attendance, and antisocial behavior. Antisocial behavior included beating up someone, deliberately damaging properly, etc.

Most of the subjects belonged to low-income families and had been convicted of a felony or an equally serious non-felony offense (such as a misdemeanor sexual assault or weapons offense), Medical Xpress reported.

The findings of the study revealed that going to school regularly without working could be associated with the least antisocial behavior and high-intensity employment (more than 20 hours a week) could be associated with diminished antisocial behavior among children who attended school regularly.

It was found that subjects who worked for long hours and did not attend school tended to be at greatest risk of antisocial behavior. This behavior was seen during adolescence; by the time the children reached early adulthood, working more than 20 hours a week was associated with lower antisocial behavior, the report said.

"Our results suggest caution in recommending employment in and of itself as a remedy for adolescents' antisocial behavior," according to Kathryn. Monahan, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pittsburgh, the study's lead researcher. "As an intervention strategy during young adulthood, placing juvenile offenders in jobs may be a wise idea. But for adolescents of high school age, placing juvenile offenders in jobs without ensuring that they also attend school may exacerbate, rather than diminish, their antisocial behavior."

The study appears in the journal Child Development.

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