Study Finds 'Risk Factor' for 'Latchkey Children'

Article Tools
  • PrintPrinter-Friendly
  • EmailEmail Article
  • ReprintReprints
  • CommentsComments

"Latchkey children" are twice as likely to drink alcohol or smoke, and nearly twice as likely to use marijuana, as their more supervised counterparts, according to a new study.

The study, reported in the September issue of Pediatrics, surveyed 4,932 8th-grade students in southern California. Of those, 68.4 percent reported caring for themselves after school for at least an hour each week.

Those who cared for themselves for more than 10 hours per week accounted for 28.6 percent of the respondents. This group was twice as likely to report a "high lifetime consumption" of alcohol (defined as having had at least 11 drinks), 2.1 times as likely to report frequent use of tobacco (a total of a pack or more of cigarettes), and 1.7 times as likely to have tried marijuana.

This "risk factor" was greater for unsupervised children regardless of sex, race, income, extracurricular activities, or school performance.

"There was no particular group that was protected from this effect,'' said Jean L. Richardson, associate professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California and primary author of the study. She said the study shows that "we all need to be concerned" about unsupervised children.

Students who were left alone for shorter periods of time reported slightly lower levels of substance use. For those left unsupervised five to 10 hours per week (15.7 percent of those surveyed), the relative risk for alcohol was 1.7 times as likely; for tobacco, 1.6; and for marijuana, 1.5.

The study also found that latchkey children were more likely to come from affluent neighborhoods and to be white. Ms. Richardson said she thought more after-school programs and greater "parental monitoring" could help lower the rate of substance use among latchkey children.

The 8th-graders filled out the questionnaires themselves in a classroom. As a check on their answers, 2,185 parents also returned the surveys, and the answers were found to be similar.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.--MN

Vol. 09, Issue 02, Page 19

Published in Print: September 13, 1989, as Study Finds 'Risk Factor' for 'Latchkey Children'
Notice: We recently upgraded our comments. (Learn more here.) If you are logged in as a subscriber or registered user and already have a Display Name on, you can post comments. If you do not already have a Display Name, please create one here.
Ground Rules for Posting
We encourage lively debate, but please be respectful of others. Profanity and personal attacks are prohibited. By commenting, you are agreeing to abide by our user agreement.
All comments are public.

Back to Top Back to Top

Most Popular Stories





Sponsor Insights

Free Ebook: How to Implement a Coding Program in Schools

Successful Intervention Builds Student Success

Effective Ways to Support Students with Dyslexia

Stop cobbling together your EdTech

Integrate Science and ELA with Informational Text

Can self-efficacy impact growth for ELLs?

Disruptive Tech Integration for Meaningful Learning

Building Community for Social Good

5 Resources on the Power of Interoperability from Unified Edtech

New campaign for UN World Teachers Day

5 Game-Changers in Today’s Digital Learning Platforms

Hiding in Plain Sight - 7 Common Signs of Dyslexia in the Classroom

The research: Reading Benchmark Assessments

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

All Students Are Language Learners: The Imagine Learning Language Advantage™

Shifting Mindsets: A Guide for Training Paraeducators to Think Differently About Challenging Behavior

How to Support All Students with Equitable Pathways

2019 K-12 Digital Content Report

3-D Learning & Assessment for K–5 Science

Climate Change, LGBTQ Issues, Politics & Race: Instructional Materials for Teaching Complex Topics

Closing the Science Achievement Gap

Evidence-based Coaching: Key Driver(s) of Scalable Improvement District-Wide

Advancing Literacy with Large Print

Research Sheds New Light on the Reading Brain

Tips for Supporting English Learners Through Personalized Approaches

Response to Intervention Centered on Student Learning

The Nonnegotiable Attributes of Effective Feedback

SEE MORE Insights >