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A latchkey kid, or latchkey child, is a child who returns to an empty home after school or a child who is often left at home with no supervision because their parents are away at work. The child can be any age, alone or with siblings. History of the term The term refers to the latchkey of a door to a house, or home. The key is often strung around the child's neck or left hidden under a mat (or some other object) at the rear door to the property. The term seems to first appear in a CBC radio program called 'Discussion Club Topic: How War Affects Canadian Children' in 1942, due to the phenomenon of children being left home alone during World War II, when the father would be enlisted into the armed forces and the mother would need to get a job. Given that the 'Discussion Club' participants are all familiar with the term and allude to it being in colloquial usage, it likely predates 1942. In general, the term latchkey designates 'those children between the ages of five and thirteen who care for themselves after the school day until their parents or guardians return home'. More specifically for their purposes, the San Marino (CA) Public Library has defined a Library Latchkey Child as 'one who on a regular basis is required by their parents or guardian to remain at the public library for extended periods of time after school in lieu of day care. 'Regular basis' is defined as three or more days per week. 'Extended period' is defined as two or more hours per day' (American Library Association 12). The term latchkey kid became commonplace in the 1970s and 1980s to describe members of Generation X who, according to a 2004 marketing study, 'went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in U. S. history. ' Latchkey kids were prevalent during this time, a result of increased divorce rates and increased maternal participation in the workforce at a time before childcare options outside the home were widely available. These latchkey children, referred to as 'day orphans' in the 1984 documentary, To Save Our Children to Save Our Schools, mainly came from middle or upper-class homes.
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