MAINE, USA — A new study led by researchers from the University of Iowa gives insight into how old a child should be for a parent to feel safe about leaving them home alone.
In the study published by ScienceDaily, 485 social workers were asked this question and the majority said that 12 years old is an appropriate age to leave a child home alone if they are not hurt, and state laws are not broken.
For cases in which a child was not injured, nearly every social worker agreed that leaving a child who is 6 years or younger home alone is child neglect, according to the report.
Eighty percent of social workers consider it child neglect if the child is eight years old or younger, and about half say it’s child neglect if the child is ten. But very few consider leaving a child who is 12 or 14 home alone to be child neglect.
However, social workers were more likely to make a determination of child neglect at 8, 10, 12 and 14 years of age if the child who is left home alone is injured.
"We found that social workers who participated in the study were significantly more likely to consider it child neglect when a child was left home alone if the child had suffered an injury, as compared to when they did not," said Charles Jennissen, MD, FAAP, clinical professor and pediatric emergency medicine staff physician for the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City.
When it comes to how long a child should be unattended, the study found most social workers believe leaving a child who is eight years old or younger home alone for four hours was neglectful. When asked at what age should it be illegal to leave a child alone for four hours, the study shows over 50 percent of social workers believe it should be illegal for children under 12 years of age to stay home alone for that long.
Lastly, experts agree that every child is different and say parents should talk with their pediatricians to help them make this tough decision, according to NBC news.
An in-depth look at these findings will be presented on Monday, Oct. 28., at the American Academy of Pediatrics 2019 National Conference & Exhibition.