Latch-Key Syndrome


Mrs. Prema S

Lecturer, Sadhu Vaswani College of Nursing, 10-10/1, Koregaon Road, Pune – 411001, Maharashtra.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:



The term ‘latchkey’ is used to describe unsupervised children who take care of themselves or spend the afterschool hours without adult supervision. The presence of non-parental adults, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles and other relatives reduces the number of unsupervised children in rural areas. In urban areas the problem of latchkey children is more serious due to fewer adults or friends who could serve as caregivers to latchkey children. There is an increased need for parents to work long hours to maintain a reasonable lifestyle and to be able to provide for themselves. Employment tends to be the primary means of survival for most families; therefore it is seen as a priority for a parent or both parents to work. It was found that latchkey children are more at risk of experiencing the negative effects of being in self-care than supervised children.


KEYWORDS: Latch-Key children, working parents, effects on children, skills to successful parents.




Gone are the days when the only things necessary to live were food, clothing and shelter. When 2 meals a day and a loving family could guarantee content and happiness. The 21st century demands a lot more than just basic needs to assure survival. The fast pace of modern life has lead to a need for both parents to be working outside of home. This has invariably resulted in the child being taught to fend for his own self and this is precisely where the ‘latch-key syndrome’ comes into play.



       The latch-key syndrome is an appellation given to the independence enforced upon the child due to unavoidable external factors.

       The child possesses his own house-key. He opens the door to an empty house on a daily basis due to the working status of both parents.


Latch-Key Child:

Latchkey child is a child who returns from school to an empty home because their parents are away at work, or a child who is often left at home with little parental supervision OR Latchkey kids are kids between the ages of 5 to 13 who take care of themselves with no adult supervision before and after school on a regular basis.


Various reasons are:

·       Nuclear families

·       Women empowerment

·       Expensive world

·       Heavy competition in the corporate sector

·       Need for financial stability


Research article which was published in American Journal of Nursing Science, 2015 estimated that as many as 10 million children care for themselves before or after school. Many latchkey kids begin their self-care responsibilities at about 8 years of age.

·       Studies suggest that the parents’ attitudes about the family and the workplace may significantly affect latchkey kids.

·       When parents feel secure - children tend to feel comfortable with self-care responsibilities.

·       When parents feel guilty - children often reflect these anxieties in their behaviors.


Effects on children:

·       Independent

·       Make decisions

·       Solve their own problems

·       Aware of stable successful career

·       Make career choices

·       Set goals to achieve success in chosen field


Every coin has two sides:

Negative effects are

       Younger than 10 years of age

Loneliness, boredom and fear.

       In the teenage -

·       Physical and sexual abuse

·       Crime and delinquency

·       Drug and alcohol abuse

·       Emotional and behavioral problems

·       Learning difficulties

·       School attendance problems

·       Domestic violence

·       Pregnancy

·       Abortion

·       Venereal disease

·       Depression

·       Suicide.

·       Many "latchkey" children experience stressful and even dangerous situations without ready access to adult guidance and support.

·       Socioeconomic status and length of time left alone can bring forth other negative effects.


The study concluded that 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.


Women find tough coping with

·       Guilt

·       Inability to make time

·       Out of control behavior

·       No discipline

·       Poorer health levels of kids


Key skills to successful parents:

·       Maintain ongoing and supportive communication with the children

·       Be sensitive to emotional and behavioral changes in children

·       Encourage the child to express her or his concerns

·       Know the attitudes and behaviors of each child’s friends.

·       Praise children honestly and openly

·       Encourage siblings to respect and communicate with each other.

·       Have regular family meetings.

·       Allow each child to offer her or his input concerning all family matters.

·       Expand the family support system.


How Parents Can Help:

·       Teach children

·       Walk through the routine with the child

·       Don't let the child display a key in public

·       Instruct children to tell callers that the parent is "busy“.

·       Structure activities

·       Arrange for the child to spend some afternoons with friends

·       Get a pet

·       Teach children that independence and resourcefulness are virtues.

·       Let them voice fears.

Some experts recommend that no child younger than 12 should be left unsupervised.



Being home alone can be a frightening and potentially dangerous situation for many children and adolescents. Parents should strive to limit the times when children are home alone. Parents should prepare their children in advance for how to deal with situations that may arise. Even Many school districts have to be involved in providing after-school activities and programs for latchkey kids.




2.      American Journal of Nursing Science. 2015; 4(4): 207-211







Received on 25.03.2019         Modified on 30.04.2019

Accepted on 24.06.2019       ©A&V Publications All right reserved

Int.  J. of Advances in Nur. Management. 2019; 7(3):279-280.

DOI: 10.5958/2454-2652.2019.00065.9