Substance Use and Delinquency Among Fifth Graders Who Have Jobs

Published In: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, v. 36, no. 4, Apr. 2009, p. 297-303

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by Rajeev Ramchand, Marc N. Elliott, Sylvie Mrug, Jo Anne Grunbaum, Michael Windle, Anita Chandra, Melissa F. Peskin, Sharon P. Cooper, Mark A. Schuster

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BACKGROUND: Working for pay is associated with substance use and delinquency among older adolescents, although information is scant about younger youth who work. This study investigates associations between self-reports of having a job and substance use and delinquent behaviors in a sample of U.S. 5th graders. METHODS: A total of 5147 5th graders and their parents from three large metropolitan areas were assessed in a cross-sectional survey between Fall 2004 and Summer 2006. Multivariate regression was used to estimate associations between having a job and substance use and delinquency. Analyses were conducted in Fall 2007. RESULTS: Twenty-one percent of 5th graders reported having a job, with most working <5 hours per week. Typical jobs included yard work, babysitting, and cleaning. In multivariate models that controlled for demographic characteristics, household composition, and household income, having a job was significantly associated with past-30-day use of tobacco (OR=2.2), alcohol (OR=1.7), and marijuana (OR=3.1). Having a job was also significantly associated with ever being in a fight (OR=1.5) and with running away from home (OR=1.8). Further analyses indicated that the associations between holding a job and delinquency outcomes were driven largely by young workers who worked >2 hours per week. CONCLUSIONS: Among 5th graders, having a job was associated with substance-using behaviors and delinquency. Clinicians should consider asking young patients whether they work, and stress to parents the importance of monitoring the work activities, workplaces, and associates of their children.

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