Allowing teens to work too many hours at the wrong place can derail their sexual health by prompting them to bed older partners. This is one of the key findings in a University of Michigan study of youth on what predicts the age of sex partners.
Study co-author Jose Bauermeister, assistant professor in the University's School of Public Health, says the age difference of sex partners is important because a larger age difference is associated with riskier sexual behaviour and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV.
Working too many hours in an adult environ without adequate supervision can lead to exposure to adults and eventually sexual activity with older partners, especially for young girls, Bauermeister said.
His team followed youths in Michigan as they transitioned from adolescence to young adulthood - aged 14 through 25 - to see what factors predicted the sex-partner age- difference.
Many factors can lead to age differences in sex partners, with girls usually dating those older than boys and young men, the study found. Age and number of work hours matter in adolescents, but any negative impact isn't apparent after age 18 or 19, the study found.
The study found that a youth's self-esteem and alcohol use also play a role in the age difference between sex partners, adds Bauermeister.
Bauermeister says the result shows that overall, teenagers who work part-time benefit in almost all areas over those who don't have jobs. However, those benefits come with caveats, he says, according to a university release.
High self-esteem and low use of alcohol offset the negative effects of working too many hours, he said. Those factors also protect youths overall from engaging in riskier sexual behaviour.