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Home alone: Does child self-care constitute a problem?

  • Penny Sih (a1) and Rosalyn Shute (a1)


Self-care in primary school age children (the ‘latchkeyphenomenon’) is often regarded as problematic, threatening children’s psychological and physical well-being, although suggestions that it is beneficial are also sometimes made. It is likely that more Australian children are being expected to look after themselves with reducing formal out-of-school hours care facilities. This paper reviews the available evidence on the effects of self-care. It concludes that it is not possible to state categorically that self-care has either negative or positive effects on children’s psychological well-being, as a range of factors influences outcome, for example, the children’s age, family relationships and whether sibling care is involved. Although under-researched, the physical safety of children without adult supervision remains a concern. It is concluded that, while many children will emerge well from the self-care experience, others will not, and that it is therefore important that affordable out-of-school hours care facilities continue to be made available to families.


Corresponding author

School of Psychology, Flinders University of South Australia, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, SA 5001. Email:


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Home alone: Does child self-care constitute a problem?

  • Penny Sih (a1) and Rosalyn Shute (a1)


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