Kids May Be Less Healthy if Mom Works

So in adjusted analyses, kids of working moms were more likely to drink sugary beverages between meals, use the computer at least two hours a day, and be driven to school. They were also less likely to snack primarily on fruits and vegetables between meals or eat three or more portions of fruit daily.

They were also more likely to eat junk food between meals.

"In my opinion, it's the [adjusted] results we should take notice of because those are what other studies have not been able to unpick -- whether it's the fact of working or whether it's the types of women who go out into the workforce and what sort of jobs they do," Law said.

Kids of women who had flex time at work, meaning they could make their own schedules, trended toward better lifestyles, but these were not significant after adjustment -- with the exception of their healthy fruit-eating habits.

Employment Patterns Changed Most for Women

Flex time was "not detrimental, but is unlikely to be important in helping parents support the development of positive health behaviors in their children."

The majority of women in the study reported being in charge of household work, which "implies that changes in health behaviors are more likely to be attributed to changes in maternal rather than paternal employment patterns." Law said that employment patterns among mothers have changed in recent decades, while they haven't changed much for fathers.

The researchers emphasized that the results highlight the need for policies and programs to help support working parents.

"I think what's really important is that both family's lives and children's health behaviors are really complex," Law said. "Health behaviors in childhood are going to be influenced by a range of factors, and this might be one."

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