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Protecting Youth at Work: Health, Safety, and Development of Working Children and Adolescents in the United States
self aware" (Keating, 1990:64). Whereas younger children can focus on only one topic or problem at a time, adolescents are able to keep several dimensions in mind at once. This growth may be because of increased memory capacity, increased familiarity with a range of content knowledge, the automatization of basic processes, or some combination of these factors (Case, 1985).
Pertinent to the health and safety of young people at work is their ability to recognize and assess potential risks and to make decisions about them. The ability to generate options, to look at a situation from a variety of perspectives, to anticipate consequences, and to evaluate the credibility of sources increases throughout adolescence, with transitional periods falling at about 11 to 12 years, and again at 15 to 16 years (Mann et al., 1989). By mid-adolescence, most youngsters make decisions in ways similar to adults (Keating, 1990). It should be remembered, however, that adults are not perfect: Their decision making is subject to a number of well-studied biases and distortions (Fischhoff et al., 1981; Tversky and Kahneman, 1974, 1981). Research also consistently finds that reasoning is not separable from knowledge about content (Chi et al., 1982; Glaser, 1984; Resnick, 1986). Thus, adolescents may need specific information about the tasks they are asked to perform, in order to make reasoned decisions about safety. However, possessing knowledge and skills does not ensure their use in real situations; a number of influences besides decision-making skills and knowledge affect the actions of adolescents.
Focus group research with adolescents and interviews with teens injured at work suggest that some adolescents may undertake tasks on the job to demonstrate their responsibility and independence (Massachusetts Department of Public Health, 1996). Some indicated that they perform tasks they know to be dangerous or in violation of child labor laws out of fear of losing their jobs. Unfortunately, these may be tasks for which they are not developmentally ready.
Sleep Needs of Adolescents
As is now widely recognized, adolescents may actually need as much or more sleep as younger children. Sleep laboratory research has found that the amount of sleep needed by adolescents does not decrease significantly between ages 10 and 18, but remains at about 9.5 hours per night (Carskadon, 1990, 1997; Carskadon et al., 1980). Even though the total amount of