Impact of latchkey condition on children and parental engagement

Impact of latchkey condition on children and parental engagement

Latchkey Kids (\ˈlach-ˌkē\): 
Children that are left at home alone without supervision because of working parents or guardians.

Current Research and History on Latchkey Children

Latchkey children directly refers to children that are left at home alone without supervision because of working parents or guardians. The origin of “latchkey” comes from 1940~1950, when women were working and men were deployed.  Children began carrying such name because the child would be provided with a key for getting into home after school. Latchkey kids are more exactly referred as kids between the ages of 5 and 13 who take care of themselves with no adult supervision before and/or after school on a regular basis. Studies have been found that lower-income family children spend a lot of time alone at home, but also the high-income family children are often times latchkey kids. One possible theory behind this study is that higher income neighborhoods are regarded as “safer” for parents, and therefore they feel safe leaving their children unsupervised. In data collected in 2011, over 4 million children were found to left without supervision for more than 6 hours every week. As government funded after school activities have been implemented, the number of latchkey children decreased significantly. In 1995, 18% of elementary aged children were found to go home to empty houses. Afterschool program legislation has been passed in 1998, which dropped the number in all aspects. The number of children from single parent families going home alone dropped from 24% to 14%, and children of married couple that are both working dropped from over 20% to about 15%. However, in 2009, budget funding for many after school programs has been cut, causing more children to be latchkey kids.
The older a child is, the more likely he/she is going to be a latchkey kid. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 10% of students 4th grade or higher spend at least a few hours home alone every day. Time alone can give children the opportunity to grow more independent and responsible, but it could also arouse negative outcomes. Generally latchkey children do poorly in school than students that are not. Some researches has found that poorly performing students is as high as 51%. The idea behind this data is that children left unsupervised often choose to do leisure activities such as playing games or watching TV, rather than doing school work. National Educational Longitudinal Study has proven that the time spent watching TV is in direct correlation with hours of self-care. After school programs have enhanced such incident by providing extra homework support. The use of drug use is also high among latchkey kids. Unsupervised children are more likely to try drugs than children that are not.
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Current Latchkey Program / Practicies

Latchkey programs are arranged into a variety of interest centers designed to enhance the child’s physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development. Activities and equipment are selected to be fun, stimulating, and educational.
  • Before School (AM) programs typically begin between 6:00 a.m. and 6:30 a.m. and last until students are dismissed to class.
  • After School (PM) programs begin when classes are dismissed and typically operate until 6:00 p.m. or 6:30 p.m.
  • ½ Day (mid-day) programs typically operate between 8:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.; the half of the day that the students are not in class.  Not all locations offer ½ day programs (These programs are being phased out since schools are discontinuing 1/2 classes.) 

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Benefits for Latchkey Children 

  • A healthier lifestyle in contrast to unsupervised students spending their time home alone watching TV, playing video games, surfing the internet, and eating junk food.
  • Peace of mind that your children are safe and well cared for in a nurturing, safe, and fun environment without the need of being home alone.
  • Since programs operate in your school, there are no transportation worries.
  • Children who attend after school programs have better grades and behavior and often outperform students not in structured programs.
  • 79% of students who participate in afterschool programs are academically above average students, while those who do not engage in after school activities are five times more likely to be academically below average students.
  • An opportunity to engage in an organized extracurricular activity outside of the classroom while enhancing the family/school relationship.
  • A decreased chance of students engaging in smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, teen pregnancy and juvenile crime.
  • Children in after school programs often have the opportunity to make friends and build relationships with individuals they would not otherwise encounter.

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Myth vs. Fact

Myth: Latchkey status us either all good or all bad

Fact: There are many variables that enter into the quality of one's "latchkey experience" such as the child's age, self-esteem, neighborhood, and the parents' attitude toward a child in self-care. It is probably that for many children the "latchkey experience" is neither all good nor all bad, but is a mixture of positive and negative aspects. Hopefully, for most of the time the positive outweighs the negative.

Myth: Lathckey experience is a 3-6 pm phenomenon. 

Fact: The number of employed mothers in this country is on the rise. The media has catered to this phenomenon and has focused on the time that a child spends alone after school and before a parent comes home from wwork. In Many families, however, parents work more than one shifts, evening or night shifts. Children may be alone for part or all fo the night. Some children are in self care because their parents go run errands each day, or "disappear" for several hours at a time.

Myth: Much is known about latchkey children because the results of previous studies are gneraliziable

Fact: Very few stuides have been done in the first place. The number of children in each study is usually not large. Different studies come to different conclusions as to the "safety" of being a latchkey child, so we can not assume all latchkey children will be one way or another. 

Myth: Supervison of children is good; No supervision is bad

Fact: Poor supervision may be worse than no supervision at all, especially if the suervisor abuses the child in any way. If the child is old enough and has a healthy sense of self and responsibility, no suerpvision might not be detrimental. 

Myth: All afternoon care is the same.

Fact: Because children are individuals with individual needs, they respond to different types of care. One child might thrive in a structured after-school program, while another does better spending his after-school hours at a nieghtbor's house. Sameness will never be a reality because of the great variation in the experties of the providers who offer these services. 

Myth: Privately-funded care is preferable to publically-funded care.

Fact: Some publically funded facilities are superior to certain privately funded programs, espeically if the guiding force of the latter is generation of profit instead of service to children. 

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Information about Latchkey children in Fairfield City School District

Activities within the Program:

  • Activities offered during the Latchkey Program include, but are not limited to, crafts, physical activity including both inside and outside play, homework assistance, music, dramatic play, cooking and more.
  • Activities are designed with the Latchkey mission in mind to provide experiences that foster social, emotional, and intellectual growth. All children are encouraged to participate in activities to the level which they feel comfortable.
  • All Latchkey Sites are licensed child care sites meeting requirements of the Ohio Department of Education Child Care Licensing Division.


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Useful Studies/Resources on Latchkey Children

Article #1 (

While self care is not always harmful, research has found that children under the age of 13 who regularly spend time alone at home may be at risk for injuries, social, behavioural and developmental problems, as well as poor academic achievement and school adjustment problems (Vandivere et al., 2003:1).

The study indicated that the issue of latchkey children has not been given sufficient attention and there is a need for a set of systems that would identify latchkey children at schools and set up after-care services for those children. Universities should encourage post- graduate studies in the field to generate more data and create understanding of the problem.


Article #2 (

Research on the Impact of Parental Involvement on Students’ Education
This study collects evidence from research to highlight the importance of involvement of parents in their children’s education. Overall, research has shown conclusively that parental involvement does make a difference to pupils’ engagement and their achievement and the evidence indicates that parental involvement benefits students, parents teachers and schools. 


Article #3 (

Barriers and Opportunities in Parental Involvement

This article explores the issues of parental involvement in the context of current movements to reform education. It asserts that parent involvement as a voluntary effort may not be effective. It further asserts that in their efforts to reform education businesses and industries are focusing too much attention on school related variables and insufficient importance on work-related variables that might act as reinforcers for parents and adults to get involved in the education of the children. Businesses and industries as well as schools are urged to establish sound and well-integrated policies for parental involvement.

Article #4 (

The effect of a latchkey situation on a child’s educational success

In this study shows the influence of a latchkey situation on children’s relationships with parents and educators in connection with educational success. A qualitative research design was used with three cases of latchkey children, where parents, children, and their educators were interviewed. 

“Self care is one of the options for parents in need of after school care for their children. In certain studies self care is seen as detrimental to development and academic performance, but in other studies children do fairly well notwithstanding their latchkey situation — self care could teach young people a sense of personal responsibility and self reliance.”


Informative Videos about Latchkey Children  


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