Guest Blogger, Allison Gamble
Child labor is a very commonplace occurrence worldwide. Depending on the culture and geographical location, it can be a more widespread problem and can pose particular dangers to younger children. While there are many physical dangers related to child labor, the psychological effects are perhaps an even bigger problem that must be examined.
One of the most problematic aspects of child labor is that it interrupts a child’s education and cognitive development. There are children working full-time who do not attend school at all, which prevents them from developing necessary cognitive skills. Even children who work part-time while studying generally perform 12% lower than those children who can devote themselves fully to their education. The percentage is even lower for those children who work full-time and study.
While social class and the effectiveness of the child’s educational system must be taken into consideration, the effects of child labor become even more pervasive when one considers the negative feedback loop this begins. These young children who work, rather than learn, will continue working through the rest of their lives without an opportunity to increase their standing in life. Without the ability to find better paying jobs, due to a lack of education, the workers’ children will also be forced early into the workplace to help support their family, ensuring that the lack of education will haunt future generations. Beyond that, forensic psychology dictates that those who live in poverty are more likely to break the law later in life.
Working can also impact a child’s social development because the child spends time doing labor instead of with peers in social play, learning how to interact properly. Even adolescents who work are impacted negatively. Teenagers who spend more than 20 hours per week working, are at a higher risk to develop problematic social behaviors like drug abuse and aggression. The risks also impact their educational development as they are more likely to perform poorly in school and drop out of the little education they are privy to.
Child labor also affects the overall social development of children, since they do not get to spend time with others their own age or even enough time with family members. Children need to build personal positive relationships in order to thrive and feel confident. Spending long hours at work, even part-time, prevents the children from properly developing these relationships, leading to insecure adults who are also at risk for other emotional problems.
Children who work also experience isolation and depression, which often prevents them from continuing to develop healthy emotions as they grow, and can lead to many physical effects. They are at higher risk for developmental delays as a result of the high health risks both from dangerous working conditions and from taking on physical tasks that are too advanced for them. Children who labor intensely are often smaller than those who are allowed to play and grown naturally. They are also at a higher risk for illnesses such as respiratory illnesses and are exposed to harmful chemicals that can also affect their physical development. Often, these children also suffer from malnutrition which leads to other serious health and mental conditions later in life.
For more information on what you can do to help get children out of the workforce, visit the Freedom at Work Toolkit.
Allison Gamble has been a curious student of psychology since high school. She brings her understanding of the mind to work in the weird world of internet marketing.