Are children of working mothers less fit?

On the 29th September the BBC reported that “Children whose mothers work are less likely to lead healthy lives than those with stay at home mothers.”

The study was led by Professor Catherine law of the University College Hospital Institute of Child Health (ICH) and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

It looked at the relationship between maternal employment and health behaviours in 5 year old British children. With about 60% of mothers with pre-school children working the study could have profound repercussions.

The study found that five year olds whose mothers worked part-time or full-time were;

* More likely to primarily consume sweetened drinks between meals
* Used their computers or watch TV for at least two hours a day compared to children whose mothers stayed at home, who spent less than two hours a day on these activities
* More likely to be driven to school compared to the children whose mothers stayed at home, who tended to walk or cycle

Furthermore the same children took part in an earlier study by the ICH which found that those with working mothers were more likely to be obese or overweight at the age of three.

The conclusion of the study was that “For many families the only parent or both parents were working. This may limit the parents capacity to provide the children with healthy foods and opportunities for physical activities.

When asked why they had not looked at fathers in the study Prof. Law said that it was because fathers’ employment levels had not changed whereas the number of working mothers had increased dramatically.

Many more mums have no choice but to work and with government policy actively encouraging it, mums seem to be caught between a rock and a hard place on this one.

I am a working mum, returning to work (I was running a specialist advertising and design consultancy from my home at the time) just 4 hours after leaving maternity hospital. And yes, my son does eat more biscuits than apples, but he is now a tall, fit, healthy 17 year old and didn’t eat as unhealthily when I controlled his diet!

And as Prof. Law herself says, “Our results do not imply that mothers should not work. Rather they highlight the need for policies and programmes to help support parents”.

When the report was published the telephone lines to the BBC were red hot. So what do you think?

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