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The More Moms Work, the More Kids Gain Weight?

Study Shows Link Between Weight Gain in Kids and Number of Years a Mom Works

Working Mothers and Weight Gain in Kids continued...

"For a child of average height," Morrissey writes, "this is equivalent to a gain in weight of nearly 1 pound every five months above and beyond what would typically be gained as a child ages."

The association was strongest when the children were in fifth and six grade compared to third grade, perhaps because at that age children may make more food choices on their own.

Over time, the slight increases can tip the child into being overweight.

Little Time to Prepare Dinner

When the researchers looked at factors affecting why the kids gain weight, they didn't find a link, surprisingly, between changes in physical activity, the time spent in supervised activity, or TV watching time.

The time of day the mothers worked -- whether their hours were traditional or not -- did not explain the association either.

The researchers speculate working parents may have little time to grocery shop and to prepare healthy food.

More than 70% of U.S. mothers with young children work, so the effect of working on children's weight is far-reaching.

Second Opinion

The new findings echo and in some ways repeat those of Patricia M. Anderson, PhD, professor of economics at Dartmouth College, who has published on the topic.

"I think mostly, this study confirms what the past literature has shown, but using a different sample of children than has been used in the past," Anderson tells WebMD.

"What continues to be lacking in this growing literature is a good explanation for the mechanism by which this maternal employment effect operates," she tells WebMD.

With little known about the why, what's a working parent to do? "I think I would focus on food," Anderson says. "Fast food doesn't necessarily have to be higher calorie. Take advantage of the nutrition information that many restaurants and supermarkets have available."

"When making the quick choice, still focus on making the good choice," she says. If you only have time for a trip through the drive-through, she says, order the small hamburger with fruit and milk, not the big burger and fries with soda.

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