Getting your teen to work a summer job will reduce their chances of getting into trouble, a new study finds. While this may seem like common sense, researchers weren’t completely certain whether it was true, or if it could have a long-term impact on an adolescent’s behavior and development. But it turns out that kids who work summer jobs are more likely to stay out of trouble even months afterward.

“A lot of people have this conventional wisdom that nothing stops a bullet like a job, but it’s not been clear whether that’s true,” said Sara Heller, an assistant professor of criminology at the University of Pennsylvania and an author of the study, according to HealthDay. “Now we know these programs are changing youth’s future behavior, not just keeping them busy for the summer.”

The study examined 1,600 teenagers between 8th and 12th grade who lived in a poor neighborhood in Chicago. Half of them participated in a public summer jobs program called One Summer Plus, which put them to work in nonprofit and government jobs about 25 hours per week at minimum wage. The participants worked as summer camp counselors, community gardeners, or office assistants, with one adult mentor per 10 students. After the summer job had ended, Heller and her team monitored the students for 13 months, examining administrative and attendance records from Chicago Public Schools as well as arrest records from the Chicago Police Department.

They found that the teens who had worked in the program were 43 percent less likely to be arrested for a violent crime compared to kids who didn’t enroll in the program. Although this same decrease in percentage didn’t occur when it came to other nonviolent crimes, the researchers found that this decline in violent crime was apparent for over a year after leaving the job.

Why the decrease in violence, specifically? “It might be teaching youths that not everything that happens is an affront to them, not to get quite so angry, and not to throw that punch,” Heller explained. “It’s teaching them to manage their own thoughts and emotions more constructively.”

But perhaps the most fascinating result of the study was the fact that working teens who received counseling didn’t fare any better than teens who simply worked. This implies that work is a form of therapy, growth, and emotional stability more so than cognitive behavioral therapy. Because of this, Heller believes that U.S. cities should explore options for summer programs that target teens in poor neighborhoods who are at a high risk of violence, though many already have such programs.

Working a summer job can instill pride in a teen for earning his own money, as well as boosting his ability to cooperate with others. “Work is showing young people that they matter,” Ed DeJesus, national director of workforce programs and policy at Youth Advocate Programs, told HealthDay. “Young people have an awakening, a better outlook for their future. They have hope.”

Source: Heller S. Summer jobs reduce violence among disadvantaged youth. Science. 2014.