health and safety dangers of work to youth, as well as the benefits of work, rational social decisions can be made. The intent of this study is not to discourage young people from work experiences, but, rather, to improve the understanding of how and when work may be harmful so that wise decisions are made by individuals, families, and society as a whole.
Attention to the potential for injuries and illnesses, as well as to potential positive and negative psychosocial effects among children and adolescents who work, has been growing since the late 1980s. More and more is known about the developmental needs and vulnerabilities of children and adolescents. At the same time, concern has mounted over the poor educational attainment of American youngsters, their lack of preparation for the job market, and their involvement in a variety of delinquent behaviors. Work is often suggested as an antidote to what ails the nation's young people. Parents of working youth often say that employment promotes a sense of responsibility, time-management skills, and positive work values (Aronson et al., 1996; Phillips and Sandstrom, 1990). Politically, the United States is in the midst of a strong antiregulatory period that has generated calls for reducing current regulations that deal with child labor. In the face of these competing social tensions, this study objectively looks at what is known about the work done by children and adolescents and the consequences of that work for their physical, emotional, and social health; their well-being; and their educational attainment.
The term child labor conjures images of Dickensian sweatshops in early industrial America or in underdeveloped countries today. In this report, the term is used as it is used in the Fair Labor Standards Act and subsequent regulations: Child refers to any individual under 18 years of age. Because it is common to identify the word child only with prepubescent individuals, however, this report frequently refers to child and adolescent labor to underscore the fact that the report is about teenagers as well as younger children. For the purposes of this report, the terms teens, teenagers, youth, and adolescents are used interchangeably to refer to individuals from the ages of 13 through 17. The terms youngsters, young workers, and young people refer to all children under the age of 18.
This report covers labor (rather broadly defined) about which there is a reasonable amount of data and information. By labor, or