Latchkey children

J R Soc Health. 1996 Dec;116(6):356-9. doi: 10.1177/146642409611600603.


Children who are regularly left without adult supervision during a significant portion of the day, referred to as 'latchkey children', are a growing social phenomenon. The main reason for the rising prevalence of latchkey children is the increase in dual income and single parent families. Studies on the effects of the latchkey phenomenon report conflicting results. The potential positive consequences include learning to be independent and responsible. The potential negative consequences include loneliness, boredom, fear, academic under-achievement, drug and alcohol abuse, accidental injury, and impairment of the parent-child relationship. Such wide variations in reported consequences in latchkey children might reflect differences in the maturity of the children and in the parent-child relationships prior to entering the latchkey arrangement. Counselling parents about the problems associated with a latchkey arrangement, referring children to an after-school programme, and teaching children self-help skills might minimise the possibility of negative consequences.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Care* / methods
  • Child Care* / statistics & numerical data
  • Child Care* / trends
  • Child, Preschool
  • Humans
  • Parent-Child Relations*
  • Psychology, Child*
  • Socioeconomic Factors