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The More Mom Works, the Heavier Her Kids Get: Study
Date:2/4/2011

By Madonna Behen
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 4 (HealthDay News) -- As if working mothers don't have enough to feel guilty about, a new study suggests that the more time they spend working, the heavier their children become.

Researchers at American University, Cornell University and the University of Chicago analyzed data on 900 school-aged children, and found that the cumulative time that a child's mother worked was associated with a small but measurable increase in the child's body mass index (BMI), a measurement that takes into account height and weight.

The research, which was sponsored by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), appears in the January/February issue of the journal Child Development.

"It's important to emphasize that it seems to be the environmental factors associated with the total time that moms work, and not maternal employment per se, that contributes to an increase in children's BMI," said study author Taryn W. Morrissey, an assistant professor of public administration and policy at American University.

Surprisingly, there was no evidence that the increase in BMI was linked to more TV viewing, a decrease in physical activity, or more time spent unsupervised.

The researchers concluded that it may be changes in children's eating and sleeping patterns (factors that were not included in the data) that account for the BMI changes. "While we weren't able to identify any specific environmental factors, it's clear from other research that nutrition and sleep are important," she said. "So, one possible policy implication is to do more to help working parents find quick and easy ways to prepare healthy foods."

Morrissey and her colleagues analyzed data from the NICHD's Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development, which began in 1991 and involved roughly 1,300 newborns in 10 cities across the country. For this st
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