Why Working Moms Are Contributing to Childhood Obesity

Robyn Nazar RN BSN's picture
Childhood Obesity
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The children of working moms are more likely to suffer from childhood obesity, according to new study published yesterday in the journal Child Development.

This study on childhood obesity is not the first one to bring light to this issue. The real question that lingers on the mind of now guilt-ridden moms is “why?”.

The study mentioned was conducted by researchers from American University, Cornell University and the University of Chicago. They took 900 different children in grades 3, 5, and 6 and examined the relationship between the number of hours that the child's mother worked to the child's BMI. The results of the study showed that there was a significant correlation between the length of time that the mother had been employed and an increase in her child's Body Mass Index (BMI). The highest increases were evident among the oldest children, who were 6 times more likely to be obese than children whose mothers do not work. Furthermore, there was an approximate 1 pound weight gain for every six months that child mother was employed.

The most interesting part of the study was that the researchers found no relationship between sedentary activity, TV viewing or lack of supervision and increased weight in these children. This leaves much room for speculation as to why the children of working moms are more prone to childhood obesity.

Working Moms Spend Less Time In Meal Prep

One perspective that the researchers addressed in their study was that moms who work have less time to prepare healthy meals for their kids. This means that the the kids eat more pre-made or fast foods rather than home cooked dishes which tend to be lower in calories, salt and fat. This perspective is backed by previous studies which have shown that families where both parents work, more food is spent on meals out and less money is spent on vegetables fruits and protein.

Children Whose Moms Work Participate in Less Physical Activity

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When a mother is tied up at work, she has less time to spend playing with her children or take them to sport activities. Furthermore, mothers who work are more likely to drive their children to school, which takes away from a basic exercise: walking to school. The children may also spend more at home participating in sedentary activities while their moms' are working. Kids who are more sedentary tend to have higher BMIs.

There is Less Supervision Over Food and Activity Choices Children

One interesting finding in this study was that the children in the grade 6 group were much more likely than the younger children to be overweight. The researchers suggested that this could possibly be due to the fact that there is less supervision of the activity and meals of older children therefore they have more independence in making these choices for themselves. Children of mothers who work would have much less supervision and guidance in helping them make healthy food and activity choices.

Where To Go From Here

Right now in the US over 15 percent of children are considered obese, a rate that has more than tripled in the last three decades. The participation of mothers in the work force has also increased over the years, reaching nearly 71 percent of all mothers in 2007. If there is a true correlation between childhood obesity and working moms then it is important to develop strategies to help these families address these issues early.

Obesity is a growing problem in the US and children who are obese are likely to become obese as adults. This places not only a great health burden on our society, but a financial burden as well. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index study released today, if the top 10 most obese cities in the US would reduce their obesity rates to the national average of 26.5 percent, they would save $500 million each year. If they reduced to the recommended 15 percent the cost savings would increase to $1.3 billion annually.

One way that society can begin to address this growing problem is to work on instilling good habits in our youth today. The solution is not for mothers to stop working, but to help find ways to encourage healthy choices in these children even while their moms are away at work.

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