Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adolescent Work Intensity and Substance Use: The Mediational and Moderational Roles of Parenting

Academic journal article Journal of Marriage and Family

Adolescent Work Intensity and Substance Use: The Mediational and Moderational Roles of Parenting

Article excerpt

The dialectic between the adolescent quest for autonomy and parents' desire to regulate this quest are explored by examining the extent to which the association between adolescent work intensity and substance use is mediated and moderated by parenting practices. Results using data from the National Survey of Youth and Religion (N = 3,290) show that the association between work intensity and alcohol use is mediated by parenting practices. There is also limited support for the moderational role of parental monitoring with respect to heavy drinking. Finally, connections among work intensity, parenting practices, and substance use are pronounced for adolescents younger than 16 years of age. These findings suggest the importance of a multifaceted view of parenting practices that both shape and are shaped by their adolescent's search for independence.

Key Words: adolescence, adolescent employment, adolescent substance use, parent-adolescent relationships.

Adolescence is widely acknowledged as a time when youth acquire increasing autonomy from their parents, leaving behind the dependencies of childhood and assuming new roles associated with adulthood. The pace at which this freedom is obtained, however, can influence adolescents' pathways to adulthood: Achieving independence too quickly can have negative consequences for behavioral adjustment, including, for example, teenage pregnancy and substance use (Hagan & Wheaton, 1993; Krohn, Lizotte, & Perez, 1997). Parents are typically viewed as regulators who hope to monitor and otherwise control the timing and processes associated with this pursuit for autonomy. Entry into the workplace is one such step toward adulthood, bringing with it responsibilities, strains, and rewards not previously encountered at school or at home (Mortimer, 2004).

Several early national committees heralded the long-term benefits and character-building nature of adolescent employment (e.g., Panel on Youth of the President's Science Advisory Committee, 1972; Work-Education Consortium of the National Manpower Institute, 1978). YetGreenberger and Steinberg's (1986) influential When Teenagers Work challenged these reports by lamenting employment during high school for its numerous negative consequences, all of which reflected, according to them, the premature assumption of adult roles and independence from parents. Of particular concern was Greenberger and Steinberg's finding that adolescent workers were at heightened risk to use illicit substances, including alcohol and marijuana, a finding that has been replicated numerous times (e.g., Mihalic & Elliot, 1997; Safron, Schulenberg, & Bachman, 2001; Valois, Dunham, Jackson, & Waller, 1999). Indeed, a more recent report issued by the federal government has altered their viewpoint, suggesting a limitation in work hours for adolescents (National Research Council, 1998).

Despite the fact that both paid work experiences and family practices have been identified as prominent precursors to substance use, little research has examined the links among these three domains. The present study integrates these strands of research, exploring how parenting practices both mediate and moderate the link between work intensity and alcohol and marijuana use. We draw on data from die National Study of Youth and Religion, a large (N = 3,290) sample of youth (aged 13-17 years) and their parents. The analyses also examine whether connections among paid work, parental practices, and substance use vary by age.


Precocity, Work, and Substance Use

Many studies showed that high school students who engage in paid work also drink alcohol and use marijuana at higher rates than their non working counterparts (Paschall, Ringwalt, & Flewelling, 2002; Steinberg & Dornbusch, 1991). Other studies indicated tiiat work status is less consequential for substance use than is intensity of work. For instance, although observing no differences in mental health and academic achievement between workers and nonworkers, Mortimer, Finch, Ryu, Shanahan, and Call (1996) reported a strong positive relationship between intense work (i. …

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