NEW YORK (MainStreet) – Are your kids chunky? It could be your fault, mom.
A new study published in the journal Child Development suggests that working mothers are partly to blame for their children’s weight problems.
The study, conducted by researchers at American University, Cornell and the University of Chicago, found a small positive correlation between mothers’ long workdays and their children’s body mass index (BMI).
“We find that maternal employment has a cumulative influence on children’s BMI that, over time, could lead to an increase in the likelihood that a child is overweight or obese,” write the study’s authors. Nonstandard employment – that is, work schedules that include nights and weekends – was particularly associated with obesity.
The child’s grade level also played a role in determining whether maternal employment would cause an uptick in obesity, with fifth and sixth graders faring particularly poorly when mom was working. “Among sixth graders, a mother’s entry into employment was associated with an increase in BMI of about two fifths (40%) of a standard deviation, and those children were about six times more likely to be overweight,” reads the report.
Nevertheless, the study is short on answers for why these associations exist. While the authors acknowledge existing theories that children with working mothers are more likely to watch TV or lead sedentary lifestyles, “there was no evidence that TV time or physical activity mediated this relation at either fifth or sixth grade,” they wrote. The authors did posit that children’s eating and sleeping habits may be affected by the work habits of mothers, but that data was not considered as part of this study.