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Work May Not Be Best for Young Children

by The Kid's Doctor Staff

A new study suggests that too much work might turn a child into a juvenile delinquent. Researchers with Rand Corp. found that fifth-graders who worked the most at jobs such as your-babysitting and newspaper routes were the most likely to smoke, drink and get into fights.

Study author Rajeev Ramchand, an associate behavioral scientist at the Rand Corp. said the findings don’t prove that overwork directly leads to trouble, but they raise questions about the value of work.

“We know working can be positive, but the time they spend working is associated with worse outcomes,” he said. Ramchand said that it’s possible that parents may stop monitoring their children as much when they’re working.

“Parents need to keep track of what their kids are doing, ask questions about what they do at work, just stay involved,” he said. The results of the study are published in the April 2009 issue of American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

A professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who studies children says the study shouldn’t make parents fret. “Millions of parents and their school-age children find informal work to be a healthy and productive part of growing up,” said Frederick Zimmerman. “Nothing in this study should cause parents any concern about having Billy your-babysit or Susie mow a neighbor’s lawn.”

Still, the study does provide helpful new information professor Zimmerman said. “We know very little about kids and work, especially this kind of informal work. So in that sense, this study may be useful in launching an academic dialogue, though it should not and will not be the last word.”

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