Adolescent Transitions to Young Adulthood: Antecedents, Correlates, and Consequences of Adolescent Employment



The antecedents, correlates, and consequences of adolescent employment were investigated in a sample of 251 low-income, African American youth that were followed since birth. The youth (age: M at preschool = 4.89, SD= .70; M at adolescence = 16.44, SD= .66; M at transition to adulthood = 19.36, SD= .76; and M at early adulthood = 27.67, SD= .75) were the firstborn children of African American teenage mothers who gave birth in Baltimore in the 1960s. Analyses examined the antecedents and correlates of age of entry into employment and stability of employment during adolescence. The associations of adolescent work experiences with subsequent adult education and employment outcomes also were considered. Findings indicate that among this sample of low-income, African American youth, those who repeated a grade in school during middle childhood were more likely to enter the workforce at later ages than their peers who did not repeat a grade. The small subset of adolescents who never worked (n= 12) appear to be markedly more disadvantaged than their peers who worked. At the transition to adulthood, adolescents who entered the workforce earlier were more likely to complete high school than their peers. In addition, stable employment during the adolescent years had more beneficial effects on young men's chances of attending college than young women's postsecondary education. This pattern of findings is consistent with ethnographic accounts of adolescent employment among poor, minority, urban youth.