Developmental Effects of Child Labor

Learn about ILRF's current work on child labor here.

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.