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Review: Children In Self Care Arrangements

M.L. Bundy & W.A. Poppen. (1989, June). “Children in self-care arrangements.”¬†Journal of Counseling and Development, 67(10), 592-593.


Does the term “latchkey kid” conjure positive or negative pictures in your mind? For many parents, the very term induces guilt. Therefore, it is hard to conduct research on child self-care. Many variables in the different situations also add to the confusion. These variables include the employment status of the parents, what time the kids are home alone, the presence of siblings, the age of kids, and the amount of time the kids spend alone. Rodman, Prattor, and Nelson (1988) define latchkey kids as “those between the ages of approximately 6 and 13 who spend time at home alone or with a younger sibling on a regular basis.” Increased definition will focus research.

The authors suggest that comparing self-care kids with those in adult care may not be as useful as comparing other variables which significantly impact kids. Some possible indicators are:

  • Parent/child relationship.
  • Sibling relationship.
  • Neighborhood factors.
  • Supportive arrangements.
  • When the children achieve independence.
  • The impact of adult care on adolescent development?
  • The counselor’s recommendation to parents with a child in self-care

Cole and Rodman (1987) suggest that counselors making recommendations to parents on self-care should consider each child’s readiness at the minimum age of eight. They suggest four categories of assessment guidelines.

  • Physical.
  • Emotional.
  • Social.
  • Cognitive.

To be physically ready, children must be able to avoid injury, manipulate locks, and operate accessible appliances and equipment. Emotionally, children must be able to tolerate separation from adults without loneliness, fear, or self-destructive behavior; must be able to ask for help from designated helpers; and know emergency resources and procedures. To be cognitively ready, they must understand directions, read and write messages, use the telephone, and solve problems. Other considerations before choosing self-care are whether or not the child will be in a safe neighborhood and the freedom of access to communication from the parent. The family environment should be secure and the child must have proper training.

Questions for Reflection and Discussion

  1. What additional factors do you feel should be considered when deciding upon self-care versus adult care for kids?
  2. In the families with whom you work, which of these areas of concern are neglected?
  3. What degree of importance would you put on each of the readiness areas listed?


  1. As adults concerned about the welfare of the kids with whom you work, be aware of the readiness level of kids you know who are in self-care situations. This is crucial for early adolescents.
  2. Be ready to encourage and support parents to be certain of their child’s readiness level. Be willing to help when discovering that kids are lacking in important areas, especially in training. This does not mean that a youth leader should provide the day care for the parents. Direct them to programs and opportunities capable of helping them meet their kids’ needs.
  3. If you aware of areas needing attention, pass these on to parents who come to you for advice or who are struggling with the issue. A holistic approach calls one be available and helpful to others in the family.

Delinda Higgins
© 2018 CYS


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