As children grow older, many families struggle to decide when their child is mature enough to stay home alone and care for themselves or for other children. This decision often causes concerns about appropriate supervision and child neglect. The following resources provide tips to parents making the decision to leave their child home alone and address issues around supervision and neglect.
Children Caring for Themselves and Child Neglect: When Do They Overlap? (PDF - 101 KB)
Zielewski, Malm, & Geen (2006)
Considers how child welfare agencies respond to reports of children taking care of themselves and how they determine whether unsupervised children are victims of neglect. The report includes the prevalence and definitions of self-care, the significance of lack of supervision to child protection agencies, reasons families leave children unattended, and more.
How Young Is Too Young To Be Home Alone?
Arlington County Child and Family Services
Lists guidelines developed by professionals in collaboration with the community that represent the minimal acceptable standards for the supervision of children.
Inadequate Child Supervision: The Role of Alcohol Outlet Density, Parent Drinking Behaviors, and Social Support
Freisthler & Johnson-Motoyama & Kepple (2014)
Children and Youth Services Review, 43
Explores the relationship between alcohol-related variables, social support, and specific supervisory neglect subtypes at the ecological and individual levels. This study builds on previous work by examining the role of parental drinking and alcohol outlet densities while controlling for caregiver and child characteristics.
Provides parents with a program to check in on their children when they are home alone. This program reassures parents and provides online resources in the community.
Left Unsupervised: A Look at the Most Vulnerable Children (PDF - 237 KB)
Vandivere, Tout, Capizzano, & Zaslow (2003)
Examines the prevalence of self-care among young school-aged children and low-income children and the circumstances of children who spend part of their day without adult supervision.