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

udy, they examined data on 900 children that was compiled from telephone and in-person interviews conducted in third, fifth and sixth grades. In addition, they looked at the mothers' employment status and schedule beginning from when their children were 3 months old.

"For a third grader of average height, the increase in BMI was equivalent to an extra one and a half to two pounds over what that child would normally gain in a year," Morrissey said.

The effect was even greater among children in fifth and sixth grades. "It is possible that because fifth and sixth graders generally have more independence and less adult supervision over their time use and food choices than third graders, maternal employment precipitates poorer food choices and more sedentary activity," the authors wrote.

Alison E. Field, an obesity researcher and associate professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, said the study highlights the challenges that all working parents face as they juggle the demands of work and family responsibilities, and that one consequence may be relying too heavily on high-calorie, processed foods.

But, she added, the researchers' main findings "should be taken with a grain of salt."

"For one thing, we don't know why these mothers were going in and out of the workforce," Field said. "Some women choose to go back to work and others have to because they need the income. The reason the mothers are working can have a very different impact on how their families are eating, and that kind of gets glossed over in this study."

Another limitation of the paper, Field noted, is that because the children were studied around the time of puberty, it's possible that other developmental factors may have accounted for changes in BMI.

Nevertheless, Field agreed that a key take-home message for working parents is that they "need to think twice about feeding their families a lot of processed, pre-packaged foods."

The study didn't inv
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