Working mums and overweight kids: is there a link?

November 22, 2007

New research from the University of Bristol shows that children aged between 5 and 7, whose mothers work full time, are more likely to be overweight at age 16. The impact on their weight is not immediate; rather, children become more obese as they get older. There is no evidence that children younger than 5 or older than 7 are more likely to be overweight at age 16 if their mothers work either part time or full time.

The findings, by Stephanie von Hinke Kessler Scholder, are summarised in the autumn issue of Research in Public Policy from the Centre for Market and Public Organisation.

Based on the body mass index (BMI), a standard measure of people’s weight-to-height ratio, UK obesity rates for boys aged between 2 and 10 increased from 10 per cent in 1995 to 15 per cent in 2003. Over the same period, obesity rates for girls in the same age group increased from 10 per cent to 13 per cent. The rise in weight problems among children coincided with significant increases in the number of mothers going out to work. The number of women aged 16 to 59 in employment rose from 59 per cent in 1971 to 74 per cent in 2007.

Previous US research has examined whether there is a link between working mothers and childhood obesity and concluded that children of full-time working mothers are more likely to be overweight. This new study investigates whether a child's age when its mother goes out to work affects the child’s weight later in life. It uses data from two British birth cohorts: the 1958 National Child Development Study and the 1970 British Cohort Survey.

The analysis suggests that:

-- Children aged 5 to 7, whose mothers are in full-time employment, are 5 to 8 percentage points more likely to be overweight

-- This is significantly higher than the overall proportion of children that are overweight at age 16: 10% of children born in 1958 and 12% of those born in 1970

-- The effect of working mothers on the probability of their children being overweight is the same for boys and girls.

Previous research suggested different ways in which women working might affect children’s weight. When a mother works outside the home, changes in the household can affect both children’s and parents’ eating habits and expenditure.

-- Less time is spent on housework, including cooking. Families eat out more or purchase more ready-made meals

-- Children spend more time with other carers, who may make different choices about their care, including their diet, than their parents would

-- Without parental supervision, children may make poor nutritional choices. Unsupervised children may be more likely to stay indoors watching TV or playing computer games rather than playing outside.

Possible reasons why obesity patterns are established between the ages of five and seven could be that children’s food preferences and habits develop around this time; it could relate to the natural growth pattern in children; or it could be linked to the fact that this coincides with when children start school.

Source: University of Bristol

Explore further: Children born to obese, overweight mothers may be at higher risk for neurodevelopmental problems, study finds

Related Stories

Children born to obese, overweight mothers may be at higher risk for neurodevelopmental problems, study finds

November 22, 2017
Compared with children of normal-weight mothers, children born to mothers who were overweight or obese immediately prior to pregnancy are at a higher risk for neurodevelopmental problems including attention deficit disorder, ...

Harmful effects of being overweight underestimated

December 1, 2017
The harmful effects of being overweight have been underestimated, according to a new study that analysed body mass index (BMI), health and mortality data in around 60,000 parents and their children, to establish how obesity ...

Violence experienced by expecting mothers detectable in the DNA of their grandchildren

December 7, 2017
In 1944 and 1945, during the Second World War, the Netherlands experienced a winter famine. Studies have revealed that the children of mothers who were pregnant during this period tended to be overweight and have lifestyle ...

Our obsession with infant growth charts may be fuelling childhood obesity

November 23, 2017
Ask any new parent how their baby is going and you will most likely get an update on recent weight gains.

Father's weight is just as relevant as the mother's in determining a child's risk of obesity

November 16, 2017
It's not only women who should be concerned about the impact of their weight on their children's health. A*STAR researchers have identified a set of factors, including the father's weight, that combine to increase a child's ...

Expectant mother's elevated blood pressure raises child's risk of obesity

September 27, 2017
When expectant mothers have elevated blood pressure during pregnancy, it may raise their children's risk of developing childhood obesity, according to a study published in the Endocrine Society's Journal of Clinical Endocrinology ...

Recommended for you

Amber-tinted glasses may provide relief for insomnia

December 15, 2017
How do you unwind before bedtime? If your answer involves Facebook and Netflix, you are actively reducing your chance of a good night's sleep. And you are not alone: 90 percent of Americans use light-emitting electronic devices, ...

Warning labels can help reduce soda consumption and obesity, new study suggests

December 15, 2017
Labels that warn people about the risks of drinking soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages can lower obesity and overweight prevalence, suggests a new Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health study.

Office work can be a pain in the neck

December 15, 2017
Neck pain is a common condition among office workers, but regular workplace exercises can prevent and reduce it, a University of Queensland study has found.

Regular takeaways linked to kids' heart disease and diabetes risk factors

December 14, 2017
Kids who regularly eat take-away meals may be boosting their risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, suggests research published online in the Archives of Disease in Childhood.

Your pets can't put your aging on 'paws'

December 14, 2017
(HealthDay)—In a finding that's sure to ruffle some fur and feathers, scientists report that having a pet doesn't fend off age-related declines in physical or mental health.

Simulation model finds Cure Violence program and targeted policing curb urban violence

December 14, 2017
When communities and police work together to deter urban violence, they can achieve better outcomes with fewer resources than when each works in isolation, a simulation model created by researchers at the UC Davis Violence ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.