The most incisive guide to issues facing the American family today . . . An invaluable resource for anyone wishing to stay on the cutting edge of research on family trends.

-W. Bradford Wilcox
Associate Professor of Sociology, University of Virginia 

Mom’s Employed; Junior’s a Couch Potato

Bryce J. Christensen and Robert W. Patterson

Public-health officials have long understood that children need regular exercise. But researchers at Swansea University in Wales recently adduced evidence that maternal employment may prevent young people from getting that much-needed exercise.

Analyzing data collected over five years for 17,561 British children recruited for their study between 2000–2002, the Swansea scholars particularly looked for indications of regular physical activity, noting that “physical activity is associated with better health.” In investigating patterns of physical activity, the researchers determined which of the children in their study were regularly “taking part in organised sports and activities.” As it turns out, the children involved in such health-fostering sports and activities were distinctively likely to have a homemaking rather than an employed mother. The data for maternal employment status indicate that children with “non-working mothers” were almost two-and-a-half times more likely to engage in “organised activities” than were peers with employed mothers (Odds Ratio, 2.4).

The researchers clearly have good justification for their general conclusion that “parenting practice appears to have a strong impact on their child’s physical activity.” Perhaps it is time for American health officials trying to combat our national epidemic of childhood obesity to look for ways to get mothers back in the home.

(Sinead Brophy et al., “Parental Factors Associated with Walking to School and Participation in Organised Activities at Age 5: Analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study,” BMC Public Health 11 [January 6, 2011]: 14.)