Study blaming childhood obesity predominantly on working mums sparks controversy

childhood obesity

A study has claimed working mothers (and not dads) are responsible for childhood obesity - and mums have something to say about it.

The study collated data from children born between 2000 and 2002, and came to the conclusion that the children of single mums working full-time were almost 25 per cent more likely to be overweight than the kids of stay-at-home mothers.

Carried out by University College London, the research provides 'casual evidence' linking a mother's work to the weight of her child.

'We find that children whose mothers work are more likely to have increased sedentary behaviour and poorer dietary habits', one of the study's authors, Professor Elma Fitzsimons, stated.

READ MORE: What is the 12-week government obesity plan 2020 and how will it affect you and your family?  (opens in new tab)

'Maternal employment during childhood increases children's body mass index.'

Credit: Getty Images

When it came to the role of the dad with regards to obesity, however, the study could not find 'any significant effect' of a father's employment on children's BMI.

The research appears to state that this is because mothers naturally take on less of a vocational workload and more childcare responsibilities. Therefore, it would be their absence in the household, and not their partner's, that could potentially lead to the risk of their children becoming obese.

'The fact that maternal employment has a detrimental effect on children's BMI, while paternal employment does not appear to be relevant, is suggestive of differing workload and childcare responsibilities between parents', the study read.

Many people have taken to Twitter to criticise the study, by claiming that it highlights the belief that household responsibilities are more weightily placed on women.

One Twitter user commented: 'Oh good. Another thing to blame women for. How dare we leave the kitchen sink, have ambition and actually enjoy our jobs. I'll be handing in my notice tomorrow to save all the children from obesity. I suggest all other working mums (and dads for that matter) do the same.'

Other people have stepped in to offer their opinion on the findings.

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The study offers a practical solution in trying to improve this situation, however, by suggesting that a 'fundamental step' be taken to involve fathers as 'active players' in promoting their children's wellbeing.

The research paper adds: 'Programmes encouraging healthy behaviours among children could be better tailored to bring both parents on board.'

That's more like it!

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Freelance Lifestyle Writer

Niamh McCollum is a freelance lifestyle writer who has written for Future titles GoodTo and Marie Claire UK, plus the Irish Independent. The Dublin-based journalist specialises in stories 

affecting families - from health updates, to the freshest parenting debates and celebrity announcements.