Although more than 2 million US children are in self-care after school,little is known of the extent to which self-care may adversely affect developmental processes, such as the development of self-esteem. To test the hypothesis that lower self-esteem is associated with being in self-care, 297 subjects in fourth and sixth grades from three ethnically diverse schools in northern California were enrolled in a cross-sectional study during November 1987. Sixty percent of subjects were in adult in-home care, 13% in adult out-of-home care, 19% in self-care, and 8.0% in older sibling care. No significant differences in self-competence scores, as measured by the Harter Self-perception Profile for Children, were observed for children in self-care compared with the three other care groups. However, children who were cared for by older siblings unexpectedly exhibited lower self-competence scores for five of the six self-competence domains, with three domains showing significance at P < .05. Children in self-care were significantly more isolated socially than children in adult care, reporting fewer opportunities to play outside or have friends visit at their homes. The results indicate that children in sibling care may be at potentially greater risk for negative effects on self-esteem and social development. Children in self-care may also experience more social isolation after school than children in other forms of after-school care.

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