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Latchkey Kids

NCJ Number
W K Brown; T A Newnam
Date Published
19 pages
The number of children left without direct adult supervision continues to grow yearly in part because family instability, single-parent homes, and two working parent households are on the rise.
Economic and social pressures are forcing more parents into the workplace at a time when children appear to most need adult guidance and supervision. These children, in turn, face a growing number of problems such as physical and sexual abuse, crime and delinquency, depression and suicide, drug and alcohol abuse, emotional and behavioral problems, learning difficulties, school attendance problems, domestic violence, pregnancy, abortion, and venereal disease. Many "latchkey" children experience stressful and even dangerous situations without ready access to adult guidance and support. It is estimated that as many as 10 million American children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age. Studies show that nearly 30 percent of all children younger than 14 years of age care for themselves or are cared for by older siblings during nonschool hours. The question-and-answer format of the booklet specifically examines why parents leave young children unsupervised, special problems of single parents, effect of parental attitudes on latchkey kids, whether latchkey kids should be given household responsibilities, influence of age and gender on the ability of latchkey kids to be self-reliant, risks faced by latchkey kids, how parents can help children feel emotionally secure and guard against accidents when they are alone, school responsibilities, and community programs available to latchkey kids. The booklet also looks at emotional and behavioral indicators of self-reliance, successful parenting of latchkey kids, and agencies and services to contact about latchkey kids.