NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

MOMS' FULL-TIME WORK TIED TO CHILDHOOD OBESITY

June 15, 2010

In a study of more than 8,500 adults in the United Kingdom (UK) followed since their birth in 1958, researchers found that the study participants' young children were 50 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than they themselves had been back in the 1960s.  When the researchers looked at factors that could be associated with the trend, they found that mothers' full-time employment, which was more common in the younger generation, appeared to be one, says Reuters. 

For the study, Dr. Leah Li and colleagues at University College London analyzed data from a project that has followed a large group of Britons since their birth in 1958.  They focused on 8,552 participants who, in 1991, had a total of 1,889 children between the ages of four and nine: 

  • Overall, the children were more likely to be overweight or obese than their parents had been back in 1965.
  • Twelve percent of boys were overweight or obese, versus 8 percent of their fathers in childhood; and 18 percent of girls were heavy, versus of 11 percent in their mothers' generation.
  • Children of mothers who worked full time were 48 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than children of non-working mothers.
  • When parents were obese, the odds of the child being overweight were three to six times greater than when parents were normal weight. 

However, even if mothers' employment is a factor in the rise of childhood obesity, the current findings suggest it would only account for a small portion of that increase, say the researchers: 

  • The findings do not prove that moms' full-time work, per se, contributes to the risk of childhood obesity.
  • One possibility, according to the researchers, is that children of full-time working moms have fewer family meals or less healthy diets in general.
  • The current study lacked information on the children's diets and exercise habits, so it is not known whether kids of working moms did in fact have poorer quality diets or were less active. 

In general, experts believe that a complex mix of societal factors -- from shifts in eating habits, to greater reliance on cars and increasing hours logged in front of the TV or computer -- has been behind the rise in childhood weight problems in recent decades, says Reuters. 

Source: "Moms' full-time work tied to childhood obesity," Reuters, June 10, 2010. 

For text:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/06/13/AR2010061304096.html  

For report:

http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/reprint/171/12/1289 

 

Browse more articles on Health Issues