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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
all, more than 85 percent of nonfatal work-related injuries to adolescents are sustained by 16-and 17-year-olds (Banco et al., 1992; Belville et al., 1993; Brooks and Davis, 1996; Layne et al., 1994; Miller, 1995; Schober et al., 1988). The reasons behind this pattern are not entirely clear. Federal child labor laws and many state laws have stronger restrictions on the work that may be performed by those under the age of 16. Therefore, younger workers may be in less hazardous jobs. Or, because of limits on their hours of employment, they may simply have less exposure to situations in which they could be injured. Employers also may give older teens more responsibility and more hazardous tasks to perform than their younger counterparts are given. And older teens may be more likely to perceive themselves as mature, and therefore, attempt tasks for which they are unprepared.
Studies also consistently show that adolescent males have greater numbers and higher rates of injuries than adolescent females (Banco et al., 1992; Belville et al., 1993; Brooks and Davis, 1996; Brooks et al., 1993; Layne et al., 1994; Miller, 1995; Parker et al., 1994a, 1994b; Schober et al., 1988). Some studies show an injury rate for males that is nearly double that for females (Brooks et al., 1993; Coleman and Sanderson, 1983; Miller, 1995; Schober et al., 1988). Until recently adolescent males were more likely than adolescent females to be employed, which could partly explain the disparity in the numbers of injuries, but not the difference in rates. Males are more likely than females to work in risky industries, such as construction (Jacobs and Steinbery, 1990; Reskin, 1993). Dunn et al. (1998) report that teenage boys are more likely to be exposed to occupational hazards than are teenage girls. They conclude that the high rates of injury in adolescent males likely reflect their job experience, their exposure to work-related hazards, and employers' expectations, rather than the boys' risk-taking behaviors. Anecdotal evidence suggests that within the same jobs, boys are frequently asked to do ''heavier" tasks. In general, males tend to have higher rates of injury than those of females, at all ages. Baker et al. (1992) note that the annual rate of nonfatal injuries requiring medical treatment or at least one day of restricted activity for males is 1.4 times that for females. The extent to which the increased risk of occupational injuries among young males can be explained by gender-related differences in job and task assignments or to gender-related behavior remains to be more fully explored.