Study Links Working Moms to Fat Kids

Filed under: In The News, Research Reveals: Big Kids, Research Reveals: Tweens

Moms who work may have heavier kids.

Moms who work may have heavier kids. Credit: Getty


All you working mothers can quit feeling guilty about leaving your children as you head to the office.

The kids are fat and happy. Well, fat anyway.

Researchers say the more years you work outside the home, the more likely your children will sit in front of the TV and say, "Gosh, I miss Mommy. Pass the Cheetos."

With a lot of bony fingers already waving disapprovingly at working moms, this conclusion is proving controversial.

No offense, lead researcher Taryn Morrissey tells the Canadian television network CTV.

"We want to emphasize that this is not a maternal employment issue," she tells CTV. "This is a family balance issue. This is not about maternal employment per se. This is about some other environmental factor or several factors."

Morrissey, an assistant professor at the School of Public Affairs at American University in Washington, D.C., along with researchers from Cornell University and the University of Chicago, studied data on more than 900 children in 10 American cities, focusing on third-, fifth- and sixth-graders.

On average, children of working mothers had body mass indexes 10 percent higher than other kids their age, the study, which appears in the journal Child Development, found.

"For a child of average height, this is equivalent to a gain in weight of nearly one pound (half a kilogram) every five months above and beyond what would typically be gained as a child ages," Morrissey tells CTV.

Researchers are not quite sure why this is so. But, Morrissey tells the network, "we have hunches."

Previous studies suggest families with two working parents tend to eat out more often, eat more fast food and are more likely to skip breakfast, she says.

Working parents have limited time for grocery shopping and food preparation and may rely more on outside food sources that tend to be high in fat and calories, she adds.

"I know that families are really time crunched so that is often hard, but doing as much as you can could be one way to try to prevent this," Morrissey tells CTV.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, medical director of the Bariatric Medical Institute in Ottawa, tells CTV the study illustrates how complicated and interwoven a problem obesity can be.

"I think what is really important here to notice is that this is a really complicated issue," he tells the network. "I don't think many people would have thought that whether they were working or not would have a bearing on their children's weight. We need to stop simplifying obesity to say people are eating too much and moving too little. It is a complicated problem with a lot of variables."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.