Mothers who work part time raise the healthiest kids, according to new study from Australian researchers. Published online February 20, 2010, in the Journal of Social Science and Medicine, the study—"Do Working Mothers Raise Couch Potato Kids?"—tracked height and weight measurements, eating habits, and activity levels in more than 4,500 Australian preschoolers. According to researchers, kids of part-time moms eat less junk food, watch less TV, and are less likely to be overweight or obese than children with a stay-at-home mom or a mom who works full time.
In a report on the study in the Sydney Morning Herald, researchers speculated the surprise findings may be driven, in part, by part-time mothers being more conscientious on the days they are able to care for their children.
"When mothers work part time, there's obviously something about the way the house is run, and the way parents are looking after their children that is protective," says Jan Nicholson, study coauthor and principal research fellow at Melbourne's Murdoch Children's Research Institute, in an interview with the Sydney Morning Herald.
As researchers tried to figure out why moms who work full time come up short compared to their part-time counterparts, face-to-face interviews conducted with the children's mothers revealed key clues. Moms with full-time jobs frequently expressed having little time leftover at the end of the day to prepare home-cooked meals for their families or encourage their kids to take part in physically active play, the study noted.
The reason why stay-at-home moms tended to have less healthy children—despite having more time to implement healthy behaviors—wasn't fully understood by researchers. The study called for more research on the topic.