This design has its roots in SQL Server 7, where read-only query parallelism was introduced. SQL Server 2000 built on this with parallel index builds, which for the first time allowed multiple threads to cooperate to change a persistent database structure. Many improvements have followed since then, but the fundamental parent-child transaction design remains today.
Though lightweight, a latch can become a point of contention when requested sufficiently frequently in incompatible modes by many different threads. Some contention on shared resources is to be expected; it becomes a problem when latch waits start to affect CPU utilisation and throughput.
Read the whole thing, as Paul dives into the latch design, provides an alternative design, and tests the alternative.