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Latchkey children doing okay.

Large numbers of children do not go home to Mom at the end of the school day. Because Mon is still at work, some children go to day care centers, some go to baby-sitters and some, called "latchkey" children, go home alone or with siblings. Researchers who conducted a survey of 349 third graders in an affluent Dallas suburb report thatk one child out of four has no adult supervision after school; but these latchkey children do not demonstrate poor social, emotional or intellectual development, as an earlier study had suggested.

For the child whose mother is not at home, self-care (or sibling care) was found to be the most common after-school arrangement regardless of race, social class or parent's marital status. Deborah L. Vandell of the University of Texas at Dallas-Richardson and her colleagues recorded how the children view themselves and how their peers, teachers and parents view them. They found that latchkey children appear to be functioning similarly to the children who go home to their mothers. But surprisingly, children who go to a day care center were viewed more negatively by peers and were rated by parents and teachers as having poorer study skills.

Vandell suggests several interpretations of these results. One is that the different arrangements may be directly responsible for the observed differences. For example, the particular day care centers may be inappropriate for this age group. She notes that the children complain the centers are "for babies." Another possibility is a preexisting difference in the children in the different situations. "It may be that these third graders' parents only used a latchkey arrangement for those children they felt had sufficient maturity and responsibility," Vandell says.

"There is a danger in applying our results wholesale," she cautions. "Latchkey care may not be good for all children...but our results suggest it is not inevitably harmful."
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Publication:Science News
Date:Jun 8, 1985
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