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Latchkey Children

The effects of being a latchkey child differ with age. Loneliness, boredom and fear are most common for those younger than 10 years of age. In the early teens, there is a greater susceptibility to peer pressure, potentially resulting in such behaviors as alcohol abuse, drug abuse, sexual promiscuity and smoking.

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4][5] The behaviors might stem from “unspent energy, peer pressure to misbehave, or hostility because of the lack of appropriate adult attention”. [6]However, some children can exude other positive effects. An early developement of self reliance, adaptation to difficult situations, and a desire to contribute to a visible need in the household. Socioeconomic status and length of time left alone can bring forth other negative effects.

In one study, middle school students left home alone for more than three hours a day reported higher levels of behavioral problems, higher rates of depression and lower levels of self-esteem than other students. [7] Children from lower income families are associated with greater externalizing issues (such as conduct disorders and hyperactivity) andacademic problems, while children from middle class and upper class income families are no different to their supervised peers. 8] In 2000, a German PISA study found no significant differences in the scholastic performance between “latchkey kids” and kids in a “nuclear family”. [9] Positive effects of being a latchkey child include independence and self-reliance at a young age. Deborah Belle, author of The After-School Lives of Children: Alone and With Others While Parents Work suggests that being left home alone may be a better alternative to staying with baby-sitters or older siblings