A new study published today in the journal Child Development finds a correlation between children’s Body Mass Index—a key weight-to-height ratio used to measure obesity, and the amount of time their mothers spend working outside the home. The study looked at 900 children, grades 3, 5 and 6 in 10 U.S. cities and found a small but cumulative effect on children’s weight, resulting in an excess of about a pound by the third grade. Even factoring in physical activity, time spent watching television, maternal depression and accounting for variant economic status didn’t explain away the association. Could it be that working moms simply have less time to prepare food at home and we live in a country where the fastest, cheapest and most available food is rarely the healthiest? Researchers behind the study caution this is not an attack on working mothers, but rather a jumping off point to talk about family/time balance and food choices. And in light of the Obama Administration’s nutrition guidelines released earlier this week, how are Americans to follow suit?
Taryn Morrissey, co-author of the study and Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at American University; she has also served as Health Policy Advisor on the staff of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee under Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA)
The study is called: “Maternal Employment, Work Schedules, and Children’s Body Mass Index”