Idle Hands: The Impact of Work and School on Juveniles


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Regular school attendance helps kids more than getting a job. Image by lusi

Young Offenders: Implications for Policy and for Parents

Irregular school attendance, combined with unemployment or low intensity employment was associated with more anti-social behavior such as fighting and theft or selling illegal items, respectively termed “aggressive and income-related antisocial behavior” by the author.

Surprisingly, irregular school attendance, rather than simple non-attendance in school, was more likely to be related to antisocial behavior.

The author states that this may be due to “to differences between not-enrolled youth and those who are attending school irregularly in their parents’ knowledge and monitoring.”

The author explains that parents who know their child is not attending school may be more vigilant about monitoring daytime behavior.

Youth in the Community Versus Troubled Youth

In an exclusive interview with Decoded Science, Dr. Monahan was asked if the findings of the study would apply to youth in general.

Monahan replied, “Much research has found that high intensity employment during the school  year (greater than 20 hours) is associated with behavior and school problems in  community samples. Our findings are unique because they examine these  associations in a high risk sample.”

Job vs. School for Juvenile Offenders

While youth in general may be negatively impacted by high intensity employment, this study found that juvenile offenders benefit from being engaged in both school and work, as long as school attendance was regular. The study implies that enrolling young troubled youth in school is more important than job placement. Older juveniles, while still benefiting from school, benefit less, while high intensity employment, as long as it is coupled with regular school attendance, helps hold down recidivism rates.  After all, as the author writes, “there are only so many hours in the day.”  Idle hands, it seems, do contribute to trouble – they are the Devil’s playground.


Monahan, K. et. al. Age Differences in the Impact of Employment on Antisocial Behavior. (2012). Society for Research in Child Development. Accessed December 20, 2012.

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