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Do working mothers raise couch potato kids? Maternal employment and children's lifestyle behaviours and weight in early childhood

Listed author(s):
  • Brown, Judith E.
  • Broom, Dorothy H.
  • Nicholson, Jan M.
  • Bittman, Michael
Registered author(s):

    Alarm about the increasing prevalence of childhood obesity has focussed attention on individual lifestyle behaviours that may contribute to unhealthy weight. More distal predictors such as maternal employment may also be implicated since working mothers have less time to supervise children's daily activities. The research reported here used two waves of data from the Longitudinal Study of Australian Children to investigate whether mothers' hours in paid work shape young children's television viewing, snacking and physical activity, and through those lifestyle behaviours, children's weight at ages 4-5 years and 6-7 years. At both ages, children's lifestyle behaviours were interrelated and associated with weight status. Cross-sectional analysis confirmed small, direct associations between longer hours of maternal employment and child weight at age 4-5 years, but not with child's weight measured two years later. In both the cross-sectional and prospective analyses, the children of mothers who worked part-time watched less television and were less likely to be overweight than children of mothers who were not employed or who worked full-time. While associations were small, they remained significant after adjustment for maternal weight, household income and other factors. The combination of direct and indirect relationships between mothers' work hours and the weight status of their young children provides additional support to calls for family-friendly work policies as an important means for promoting healthy family lifestyles and early childhood wellbeing.

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    File URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0277-9536(10)00124-3
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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Social Science & Medicine.

    Volume (Year): 70 (2010)
    Issue (Month): 11 (June)
    Pages: 1816-1824

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:socmed:v:70:y:2010:i:11:p:1816-1824
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    1. Cawley, John & Liu, Feng, 2012. "Maternal employment and childhood obesity: A search for mechanisms in time use data," Economics & Human Biology, Elsevier, vol. 10(4), pages 352-364.
    2. Lyn Craig & Michael Bittman, 2008. "The incremental time costs of children: An analysis of children's impact on adult time use in Australia," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(2), pages 59-88.
    3. David M. Cutler & Edward L. Glaeser & Jesse M. Shapiro, 2003. "Why Have Americans Become More Obese?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 93-118, Summer.
    4. Sandra L. Hofferth & Sally Curtin, 2005. "Poverty, food programs, and childhood obesity," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 24(4), pages 703-726.
    5. Christopher J. Ruhm, 2004. "Parental Employment and Child Cognitive Development," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 39(1).
    6. Angela Fertig & Gerhard Glomm & Rusty Tchernis, 2009. "The connection between maternal employment and childhood obesity: inspecting the mechanisms," Review of Economics of the Household, Springer, vol. 7(3), pages 227-255, September.
    7. Anderson, Patricia M. & Butcher, Kristin F. & Levine, Phillip B., 2003. "Maternal employment and overweight children," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 477-504, May.
    8. Phipps, Shelley A. & Lethbridge, Lynn & Burton, Peter, 2006. "Long-run consequences of parental paid work hours for child overweight status in Canada," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 62(4), pages 977-986, February.
    9. Dixon, Helen G. & Scully, Maree L. & Wakefield, Melanie A. & White, Victoria M. & Crawford, David A., 2007. "The effects of television advertisements for junk food versus nutritious food on children's food attitudes and preferences," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 65(7), pages 1311-1323, October.
    10. Yee Fei Chia, 2008. "Maternal labour supply and childhood obesity in Canada: evidence from the NLSCY," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 41(1), pages 217-242, February.
    11. Suzanne Bianchi, 2000. "Maternal employment and time with children: Dramatic change or surprising continuity?," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 37(4), pages 401-414, November.
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