Women who work part-time 'have the healthiest children'
Women who work part-time have the healthiest children, according to a new study.
Their offspring were less likely to be obese than the children of stay-at-home mothers or women who worked full-time, researchers found.
Those whose mothers had a part-time job also ate fewer unhealthy meals, watched less television and were more physically active than other youngsters the same age, the findings show.
Prof Jan Nicholson, from the Murdoch Children's Research Institute, in Melbourne, Australia, who led the study, said that the findings showed that part-time work could have positive benefits.
She said: “What we’re seeing is that mums who work part-time are better able to balance their work demands with family life and are more able to monitor their children’s eating habits and activities, which has direct health benefits for children.”
She added: “We need to find ways to provide full-time working parents with the ability to do that by promoting family-friendly work policies.”
Prof Nicholson said that it was still unclear why children whose mothers did not work were more likely to be obese. The study pointed out that as some of the mothers who were not working were unemployed, rather than choosing to stay at home, there was likely to be a link between poverty and children's weight.
She said: “It is possible that work, when it allows mothers to balance the demands of home and family, may lead to mothers spending more time with their children on activities that have benefits for their children’s healthy lifestyles.”
The study monitored the impact that the working hours of their mothers had on the habits and weight of 4,983 children, studying them when they were between the ages of four and five and again between six and seven.
The link between part-time work and healthy weight remained even after adjustment for the mothers own weight, ruling out a genetic influence.
The results of the study, which also involved teams from the University of New England and the Australian National University, are published in the journal Social Science and Medicine.
Obesity is calculated using the Body Mass Index (BMI), a ratio of weight in comparison to height.
A BMI score is calculated by dividing a person’s weight in kilograms by their height in metres squared. A score of between 18 and 25 is considered normal, while 25 to 30 is overweight, 30 to 40 obese and over 40 morbidly obese.