Adolescent Work Experiences and Family Formation Behavior


  • A previous version of this article was presented at the 2010 Meeting of the Population Association of America. This research uses data from Add Health, a program project designed by J. Richard Udry, Peter S. Bearman, and Kathleen Mullan Harris, and funded by a grant P01-HD31921 from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, with cooperative funding from 17 other agencies. Special acknowledgment is due to Ronald R. Rindfuss and Barbara Entwisle for assistance in the original design. Persons interested in obtaining data files from Add Health should contact Add Health, Carolina Population Center, 123 W. Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516-2524 ( No direct support was received from grant P01-HD31921 for this analysis. Jeremy Staff is grateful for support from a Mentored Research Scientist Development Award in Population Research from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (HD054467).

Requests for reprints should be sent to Jeremy Staff, Department of Sociology, Pennsylvania State University, 211 Oswald Tower, University Park, PA 16802-6207. E-mail:


A long-standing critique of adolescent employment is that it engenders a precocious maturity of more adult-like roles and behaviors, including school disengagement, substance use, sexual activity, inadequate sleep and exercise, and work-related stress. Though negative effects of high-intensity work on adolescent adjustment have been found, little research has addressed whether such work experiences are associated with precocious family formation behaviors in adolescence, such as sexual intercourse, pregnancy, residential independence, and union formation. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we find that teenagers who spend long hours on the job during the school year are more likely to experience these family formation behaviors earlier than youth who work moderately or not at all.