Bad News for Working Moms: Your Kids Are More Likely to Be Large

job interview Attention all working moms: The more years you work, the fatter your child is likely to become, according to a new study that links childhood obesity with mothers who have jobs outside the home.

This may be a bitter pill to swallow, but with childhood obesity more than tripling over the last 30 years, researchers have been trying to find causes and correlations. Prior research has linked maternal employment to children's body mass index (BMI), which measures weight as compared to height.

But a new study by an American University professor in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development has found that children's BMI increased the more years their mothers worked.

Taryn W. Morrissey, assistant professor in public administration and policy, led the study with colleagues from Cornell University and the University of Chicago. They took a look at 990 children in grades three, five, and six, living in 10 cities across the United States. Especially for the fifth- and sixth-graders, the researchers found that the total number of years mothers were employed had a cumulative effect on their children's BMI. Over time, this can lead to an increased chance of children -- and eventually the adults they become -- being overweight or obese.

The reasons for this are not readily apparent, but researchers speculate that working parents have less time for grocery shopping and meal preparation, and therefore resort more to fast foods and prepared foods which are often higher in fats, carbohydrates, and calories.

"About a fifth of American children are considered obese, and childhood obesity has been associated with health, behavior, and academic problems in adolescence and adulthood," Morrissey told a reporter from American University. "Community and school-based programs offer promise for promoting healthy weight by providing information to children and their families about nutrition and exercise, as well as how to make quick, healthy meals."

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