Employment and work safety among 12 to 14 year olds: listening to parents
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BACKGROUND: Survey research indicates that a surprising number of 12 to 14 year olds in North America engage in some form of paid work, and work-related injuries for this age group are reported at rates similar to older teens. Parents exhibit significant involvement in many aspects of their teens' work and may influence perceptions of work safety, yet few studies have explored this phenomenon from a qualitative perspective with parents of working 12 to 14 year olds. METHODS: This paper focuses on parental perceptions and understandings of work safety based on focus groups conducted with urban Canadian parents of young teens who work for pay. Parents discussed the types of job held by their 12 to 14 year olds, the perceived costs and benefits to working at this age, and their understanding of risk and supervision on the job. A grounded theory approach was used to thematically analyze the focus group transcripts. RESULTS: Parents in this study held favourable attitudes towards their 12 to 14 year olds' working. Parents linked pro-social moral values and skills such as responsibility, work ethic, time management, and financial literacy with their young teen's employment experience. Risks and drawbacks were generally downplayed or discounted. Perceptions of workplace safety were mitigated by themes of trust, familiarity, sense of being in control and having discretion over their 12 to 14 year olds' work situation. Further, parental supervision and monitoring fell along a continuum, from full parental responsibility for monitoring to complete trust and delegation of supervision to the workplace. CONCLUSIONS: The findings suggest that positive parental attitudes towards working overshadow occupational health and safety concerns. Parents may discount potential hazards based on the presence of certain mitigating factors.
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