The continuing debate over whether teenagers should have part-time jobs during their final years at school should focus on the suitability of the work, rather than the number of hours that they do.
The University of Minnesota's James Stone III has reached this conclusion after reviewing several research studies.
Between 73 and 80 per cent of senior high-school pupils are believed to have paid employment although many work less than half the year.
Most teenagers with paid jobs are white and from intact, relatively well-educated families. They tend to be better-than-average students who are destined for college.
Nevertheless, those who criticise youth employment claim that it creates poor attitudes to work and contributes to deviant behaviour. Stone contends that these critics have failed to consider that not all youth jobs are the same.
Some reports have suggested that 60 per cent of the jobs held by teenagers are in restaurants and shops - McDonald's alone employs about 12 per cent of all working adolescents. But Stone points out that the proportion of teenagers doing such work is lower in some regions of the country.
He argues that paid jobs that equip young people with useful skills can often lay the foundation for occupational success later in life. Stone claims that part-time work can even enhance older boys' relationships with their fathers.
The message, he says. is that "job quality matters in adolescent employment", just as it does for adults.
Correspondence: James Stone III, the University of Minnesota, 1954 Buford Avenue, St Paul, MN 55108