Jeylan T. Mortimer and Melanie J. Zimmer-Gembeck
Many adolescents combine secondary school attendance and employment, raising the potential for work environments to constitute important contexts for adolescent career development. In this chapter, we draw from sociological, social psychological and developmental theories, as well as empirical research, to assess how adolescent paid work may impact vocational and related domains of development. We emphasise the multidimensional character of adolescent work and adolescents' agency in the process of vocational development. Along with the socialization that adolescents experience in their work contexts, they select and probably attempt to optimise their occupational experiences. Recent findings from the U.S.-based Youth Development Study provide longitudinal evidence that patterns of adolescent work investment and quality have significant consequences for long-term educational attainment and career establishment. We present evidence that exposure to high quality work environments during adolescence influences both vocational (e.g., by heightening work values and economic efficacy) and psychosocial (e.g., by enhancing the self-concept and interpersonal skills) development. Finally, we indicate the limitations of existing knowledge on this subject and suggest directions for future research.