The percentage of moms greeting kids at home after school with a healthy snack and serving a hot-from-the-oven dinner after homework is quite small in this era. Stay-at-home motherhood is practically an unheard-of luxury as families try to make ends meet. But is the cost of mom working literally penny-wise and pound-foolish? Recent research suggests it could be.
The growing number of full-time working moms in the past few decades could be one of the factors contributing to the concurrent rise in childhood obesity, new research hints.
In a study published in the May 20 American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that subjects’ young children were 50% more likely to be overweight or obese than the subjects themselves had been back in the 1960s. When the scientists looked for common denominators to the trend, they discovered that mothers’ full-time employment, which was more common in the younger generation, appeared to be one.
Leah Li and colleagues at University College London analyzed data from a project that has followed a large group of Britons since their births in 1958. The researchers focused on 8,552 participants who, in 1991, had a total of 1,889 children between the ages of 4 and 9. Overall, the children were more likely to be overweight or obese than their parents had been back in 1965: 12% of boys were overweight or obese, versus 8% of their fathers in childhood; and 18% of girls were heavy, versus 11% in their mothers’ generation.
While the findings are not conclusive that mothers’ full-time work is a contributing factor to childhood obesity, the study authors suggest that working moms may prepare fewer family meals or less-healthy diets in general. However, the current study lacked data on the children’s diets and exercise habits, so it is unknown whether kids of working moms did, in fact, have poorer-quality diets or were less likely to exercise.
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