The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently presented in its 2019 National Conference and Exhibition, the results of a study aimed at determining the right age by which children left home-alone is not regarded as a case of child neglect. The general consensus among the survey participants suggest that they deem 12 years old as the right age for parents to leave a child alone at home for four hours or more.
The authors of the study noted that the question of age comes as a factor that social workers consider when evaluating potential cases of child neglect. The need to determine a home-alone child’s age is necessary as previous studies performed by other researchers, revealed that the absence of adult supervision was a common factor in more than 40 percent (40%) of injury-related deaths among American children.
However, the AAP research authors took note that child-neglect laws vary in different states, to which the results of their study has prompted them to suggest having uniform child safety laws in order to give children better protection against harm caused by child neglect. .
Study Looked into What Social Workers Determine as Child Neglect
Charles Jennissen, MD, FAAP, a clinical professor and staff physician at the pediatric emergency section of the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City said that
”The level of neglect is actually the same whether or not, a child who has been knowingly left alone at home, had been injured. Child protective investigators therefore should handle such cases as the same.
The AAP researchers surveyed 485 social workers registered from October to December 2015, with the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) as “Child/Family Welfare,” They then emailed surveys to the participants, presenting scenario conditions in which the age of a child home alone for four hours, varies.
Other scenario variations included conditions in which children under different age groups suffered an injury. The different home-alone child scenarios, also took into consideration if there are relevant home-alone laws in their area of jurisdiction.
In the course of the AAP study, they found out that social workers who participated in the survey said they are more inclined to consider it a case of child neglect if a left home-alone child had suffered an injury, as compared to how they view it if there was no injury involved.
Almost all social workers who participated in the survey consider it child neglect if a child aged 6 or younger has been left alone for at least four hours, even if the child was not injured.
In scenarios in which there is a law that makes it illegal to leave a child at home, a significant number of social workers consider it child neglect if the minor is aged 8, 10, 12 and 14, regardless of whether or not the neglect resulted to injury..
More than one-half of the number of participants opined that it should be illegal for parents to leave children under 12 years old, home alone; while ⅘ agreed that it should be illegal for parents to leave children under 10 years old, home alone.