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Child Labor – An Intergenerational Perspective

Often when people think of child labor they are transported to a third world country where children are victimized, abused, and denied basic human rights. But the truth is that child labor isn’t just a third world issue; it impacts the lives of children and youth here in the United States.  As a team we decided to investigate the minors in the U.S who are laborers and how this exposure of hard labor results in multiple consequences to the child’s well-being. These consequences can include denial of an education, damage of physical health, and psychological effects. We came to this topic after reading articles that examined the lives of child migrant farm workers. The articles emphasized the youth’s failure to exceed in school due to time spent in the fields and traveling to find work throughout the year. While child labor affects children and youth in many aspects we narrowed it down to the causes of child labor. In particular the intergenerational component. One of the greatest problems contributing to this issue is the ongoing violation of the adults who employ minors and parents who encourage their children to work outside of the home. They willingly violate children’s rights to education, play and access to a safe and nurturing environment. While advocates and policies strive to put an end to this problem, these adults who willingly allow children to work are standing in the way of a total solution. What we strive to understand as we examine further is why adults give jobs and enforce labor onto children in the first place. The purpose of our research is based on two aspects, awareness and advocacy. Awareness for the injustice that plaques populations of children in the U.S. Through this effort we plan to expose and inform readers about this issue and hope to increase the participation of activists willingly to represent and work to end this matter. Due to the fact that this is a social issue that impacts children through multiple ways the consequence of not knowing would result in the lack of resources for generations affected directly.  As a team we concluded that our proposed research question is, what factors influence parental figures to encourage children to work?

Child labor is a global crisis that affects generations of children. The constant exploitation of children leads to a number of negative outcomes on the child’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. Our topic is child labor and its relationship with inter-generational factors. Intergenerational is defined as “relating to, involving, or affecting several generations.” (Dictornary.com). As we conducted this literature review we wanted to discover why parents are allowing their children to work and what effects does it have on working minors. The following articles used in this research have been found by accessing the Brooklyn College Library database. These articles emphasize on why parents incorporate their children to work, how income plays a role in child labor, and if child labor populations have decreased. Some articles also discuss the immediate effects of child labor on learning achievement, health and well-being of under-aged workers.

Literature Review

Causes and effects of child labor

Perception And Practice Of Child Labour Among Parents Of School-Aged Children In Ibadan, Southwest Nigeria written by Omokhodion and Uchendu identifies the reason why parents incorporate their children to work. Children work in a division labor because the child’s income would become an extra source for the family household, family businesses, and help combat poverty. The kinds of work these children participate in include a range of low skilled to unskilled labor. The researchers conducted a cross sectional study which was carried out in Ibadan, Southwest Nigeria a low-income urban community. The population of the study consisted of 473 participants. The study was given to parents of children. The survey revealed that women preferred their children to work instead of the father. Some parents aren’t aware of child labor laws. The argument raised by this article was why are parents allowing their children to participate in these types of division of labor? when it’s depriving the child by limiting what he or she can and cannot do. It’s molding their minds because they’re set into these mindsets of just knowing unskilled work, resulting in them working there long-term just as their parents because that is all they know. The last argument was if children were able to go school instead of work they will learn to be more knowledgeable and would learn about laws and their rights.

The Effect of Child Labor on Learning Achievement (Heady 2003) This paper analyzed the effect of children’s work on learning achievement. It is related to our topic because it provides a direct effect of child labor on the quality of education a child receives. We wanted to review this paper to discover one of the many effects child labor has on education. The researcher was interested in studying the effects on learning achievement through a different method. The researcher explained that he wanted to go beyond the analysis of the effects of school enrollment or attendance. And instead use measures of skills learned in reading and mathematics. The researcher conducted his research by administering educational tests. These included a test of innate ability, a reading test, a mathematics test and an advanced mathematics and reading test. The test were given to a population of 1,848 children ages 9 to 18.  The results show that work outside of the household has a substantial effect on learning achievement; and that a direct link could exist because of exhaustion or diversion of interest away from academic concerns. In relation to our purposed research question this provides a new way to look at the existing research but also how we can alter our current view and emphasize on a new method.

Health issues and well-being of the child

Health Issues and Wellbeing; Working Children in Carpet Industry in Punjab, Pakistan (Anjum, Zafar, Maann, Ahmad 2015) The authors of this paper directly investigated the health issues and wellbeing of child laborers in the carpet industry in Pakistan. Although it is research done in a different country. It is related to our topic because of the style of work these children were given. Much like child labors in the U.S these children were working in physically harming positions, long hours, and are given few breaks. We are reviewing it because the health risks that were raised in this article equally affect U.S child laborers. The researchers were interested in identifying the factors contributing to child labor and the effects of work-related health issues on the wellbeing of child carpet weavers. The researchers conducted a cross sectional survey. Interviewing a sample of 320 carpet child workers ages 8-17. The researchers found that majority of the respondents reported health issues including body aches, eye strain, cuts, wounds, exhaustion, breathing problems. These children are put in a harmful and dangerous situation like all child laborers. When a child is working long hours and strenuous work it takes a toll on their physical, cognitive, social and moral health.

Parental Disruption and the Labour Market Performance of Children When They Reach Adulthood (Fronstin, P 2001) The child’s work in Turkey is acknowledge by a series of questions and how they answer them, resulting in a possible job he/ she can do. The research conducted here is connected from mother to child. This shows how at least one child in a household would be working. Due to the opportunities for female employment it has shifted the views that a child can also work. This article uncovers that child labor has decreased in Turkey due to the implementation of child labor and education laws. Students were also getting free resources to attend class such as books and other supplies. The argument in this article shows that although child labor is banned some families still incorporate child labor into family businesses. When does a parent stop and think that their child is not an adult and therefore not bodily able to work as one? By this article we can assume that child labor would truly never have an ending because its up to the parents to empower their own children. Many parents are still embedded in this lifestyle of the past and don’t understand the future that lies ahead for their children.

Economic influences

(Wahba J 2006) focuses on market income. He discusses how parents who started with child labor jobs seek their children to do the same. The reason for this is income is below tolerable level. Another factor that plays into this is social norms, examples they used are: shamed, embarrassment and frowning upon from others. My argument toward this article is if you as a parent grew up as a child laborer, it does not make it correct for your child to do the same. This goes to show that society perceives people to do certain things and if they don’t they are looked down at, but why should a child be included in this perception if they don’t understand. This leads the child to feel pressured to work more and put aside their childhood.

Child Labor and Schooling Responses to Access to Microcredit in Rural Bangladesh (Islam and Choe 2013) as a group we agreed that income was a factor that played into the role of children working or not. This article in particular gives us another insight on how programs aimed to credit families can also influence the choice for children to work. The researchers were interested in the impact of access to microcredit on children’s education and labor. The researchers collected data by survey given to a population in rural Bangladesh. The findings showed that household participation in a microcredit program may increase child labor and reduce school enrollment. This is relative to our own research because it shows us that even in programs aimed to fight the cause there can also have a range of issues as well.

Parental influence 

Is There a Child Labor Trap? Intergenerational Persistence of Child Labor in Brazil (Emerson 2003) Emphasizes more on the head of the household deciding whether their child should be working or not. They did a study in Brazil and the findings were that parents who ended up working as children earn lower when they reached adulthood. This leads to parents enforcing their children to also become child laborers. This influences child laborers because it takes away from their schooling. Causing more effects to the family as a whole. The argument presented in this article shows that parents believe they are helping their family but in reality are causing harm. Due to the fact that child labor is familiar lifestyle families won’t always understand the value of how schooling can help the family.

PARENTS’ VIEWS, CHILDREN’S VOICES: Intergenerational Analysis of Child Labor Persistence in Urban Nigeria (Togunde and Weber 2007). . In Abeokuta, the capital of Ogun State, Nigeria researchers drawing on the analysis of 1535 parents and children provided a comprehensive analysis of the intergenerational dynamic of child labor. After the data analysis it was observed that child labor is caused by poverty. Also, concluding that there is a need to provide children with training for future careers. Furthermore, a significant number of parents had worked for their own parents while growing up, and this experience influenced their decision to ask their children to work.

Gaps in Literature

From the following articles we understand that parents seek their children to work because of the need for a source of income, social norms, and past traditions. These articles answered the questions surrounding some of the causes of child labor. And propose possible solutions including the implementation of services to affected families. Some of the gaps throughout the literature include the relationships between parental figures and children within the family dynamic. There is also a lack of focus on the socialization of children outside of the working field. Especially for our interest in the US there is a gap in data between the immigration/citizenship statuses of children in relation to involvement in labor. Other gaps include factors including rural vs. urban settings, racial differences and the transition from child worker to adulthood. If analyzed further we believe these gaps could result in another aspect of the prevalence in inter-generational labor.


As a group we will focus on a qualitative data collection. Our method will be in form of interviews. We decided to choose interviews because of the sensitivity of our work. We wanted to understand the emotional and cognitive reasoning behind intergenerational child labor.  The article entitled, “Steps for Engaging Young Children in Research” describes interviews as way to, “allow exploration of an area that has been little explored and is not well understood” (p38) and ultimately that’s what we want to accomplish.

Population and Sample

Our population is families that have been affected by child labor. Our sample is the parents of children who are currently working or who have worked in the past; and also the child laborers. The differences in categories will include parents who have had more than one child working, parents who have experienced intergenerational child labor, and children who have worked more than two years. We chose these in order to see if the reasoning behind their work is varied or if there is a common ground. We will select ten families. The sampling technique will be non-probability and purposive.

Study Site

The article, “Steps for Engaging Young Children in Research” states that, “The facilitator needs to create a nonthreatening supportive and positive atmosphere in order for participants to discuss their perspectives openly” (p40).  With that in mind we understand that the topic can be emotional and hard to talk about for some individuals so we want our site of study to be in the homes of the participants. Therefore they feel comfortable and not threatened.  Participants will feel a sense of security and feel more liberty to speak freely in their homes than for example in a formal space like an office. We purposely selected this site in order to ensure that participants feel comfortable and supported throughout the entire process. We will gain access first through permission from the selected families and if they deny us access we will ask them to provide us with an alternative space where they feel most comfortable.


The recruitment of participants for this interview will result by visiting locations where parents are whether it be schools, outdoors, or residents in my area. As a team we will be interviewing parents from different backgrounds to get a better perspective of how different ethnicities view child labor. Children would also be interviewed we will recruit them from school and stores; the interviews with the children would be for them to describe their work conditions and how they feel about working. Interviews with parents would be straight forward asking why do they believe children should work. For children it would differ by speaking to them in a language that they understand, asking them simple questions. This interview would be semi-structured since we probably won’t be able to meet with the parents and children more than once due to work or other priorities they have. The parents’ interview would be one-on-one and the children interviews in groups because they would be able to open up more when others in their age group. They group interview would consist of three to four children, this way they can take turns and can relate to others. The way we would observe this interview is by audio recording and note taking because it’s better to save their interviews to remember what they said to compare and contrast them. Note taking can be used to write down physical gestures they were making as folding their hands, looking away, or looking down. The interviews will take 45 minutes for both parents and the children. Examples of the interview questions are below:


Do you believe children should be working in family businesses?

Why do you believe child labor laws are implemented?

Are any of children working and receiving under minimum wage?

Do you know of any other children being exploited to work?

Do you believe children should be working at an early age?


Do you work with your mom and dad?

Do you like to work?

Do you think it’s mandatory to work?

Do you work or does mom and daddy work?

What kind of job do you do when you work?

Do you work a lot?

How many days do you work?

How many days do you work?

Do any of your friends work?

Informed participation

As a team we agree that each participate will receive a consent form that will state the purpose, method and the ways the information will be shared with others. We will encourage our participants to read all of the information on the form before contributing any information. We will also answer any questions the participant may have in order to ensure both the researchers and participants have a full understanding of what is in store.

Voluntary participation

First and foremost we will highlight on the consent form that their participation is completely optional and in no way will they be held responsible if they decide not to participate. We will also highlight that they can share with us anything that they feel comfortable with and they should feel no pressure to answer or do things that aren’t safe to their psychological, physical or emotional well-being.

Confidentiality and anonymity

Due to the sensitivity of our subject of research it is best that the identity of the respondents to be confidential. We will maintain this confidentiality throughout the study by not using direct names in our final project and referring to participants as adult/child.

Protection from harm

The potential risks of participating in our study are emotional harm. Some participants may feel remorse has they retell their stories or answer questions surrounding their experiences and decisions. The way to prevent this is allowing the participants to avoid answering trigger questions and insuring them that this is solely for the purpose of collecting data in order to improve the solutions to the problem.


A way we as researchers would recruit children for our study is by going to businesses and jobs were children would be working .The gatekeepers to this site are the managers and the CEO’s of the store or company. Gaining voluntary informed consents from these gatekeepers by contacting them first and then asking to receive permission to the site by briefly explaining our study and purpose. The way we would ensure the informed and voluntary consent of children is free from coercion or manipulation is by giving them the right to withdrawal from the consent or stop participating at any time, for any reason. You as the participant have the right to refuse to answer any questions .We would ensure that children are not passively assenting, but positively agreeing by restating questions in different forms and asking them to provide scenarios or examples from their experiences to get a better active conversation. Children in this study won’t be impacted differently because every child would be asked the same questions and would be anonymous.


The greatest bias that will affect our research is the emotional attachments made after interviewing children. Due to our advocate perspective to this study the injustices we face can influence what data we decide to report.

Data Security

Every effort will be made to maintain the privacy of the data .To protect confidentiality no personal identifying information will be used. To reduce concerns about confidentiality, a chosen or be assigned a pseudonym will be given. None of your information will be kept under real names. All electronic files of observation notes, interview transcripts, and audio files will be kept in physically secured locations by using password-protected files and locked drawers

Dissemination and use of research
This research can be used in journal articles to approach an audience and even act as a discussion of research findings. This research can be applied to those children’s parents who either participate in child labor services or not. We as a team will get our data by visiting locations where parents are whether it is in schools, stores, or outdoors. The populations we will sample are different types nationalities to get a better perspective on this research. In order to gain access to these locations I will have to ask parents and principals for authority to interview them. The methods that will be use to collect this data is by interviewing participants. Data will be in form of the participant’s answers not numbers. We plan to measure the variables by coding responses from the interviews and measuring the frequencies to determine the common themes throughout the responses .We will ensure that the data is reliable by including all information we gained from participants.

Data Analysis

Our data analysis will be a qualitative method. The data collected in the interviews will be coded for contextual themes and cited for any frequencies. The data will be represented by thematic descriptions and figures representing the majority’s opinion and reasoning for child labor and its significance in relation to the intergenerational prevalence. The coded data will then be organized into a table that compares and contrast both parent and child participate responses. Reviewing the responses from the interviews will give us a comprehensive understanding of some influences that contribute to the intergenerational labor of minors. These larger themes include: economic status, history of labor, education completion, cultural ideology, and future aspirations. The basis for interpreting the data will be to determine if our findings relate or confirm with the results from the existing literature that was studied. We also hope this interpretation of data will serve to raise awareness for the child laborer.


After studying the literature and interpreting our own findings it can be stated that our outcome supports previous thesis and presents a clearer perspective on the child labor crisis that affects many minors in the U.S. The highlighted reasons that parents and adults justified their opinions and actions can be defined in the following terms: educational attainment, work history, and economic status of parents. All of these factors one or more at a time increased or decreased the possibility of children entering employment under the age of eighteen. It also reflected the kinds of work the minors will participate in. Determining the work status of their children, parents not only affect the lives of the present generation but this will in turn affect their children’s children; hence, the intergenerational dynamic. Parental socio-economic status seems to be a valuable predictor of the likelihood that child labor would persist intergenerationally. We hope our research will bring awareness to the issue and promote the importance of family support programs. These programs can work to aid the family during time of economic crisis which in turn will help foster children leading them away from possible labor.




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