Childhood obesity crisis study blaming working mothers causes outrage

'How dare we leave the kitchen sink, have ambition and actually enjoy our jobs'

Sarah Young
Monday 11 March 2019 11:23
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Jamie Oliver and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall call for childhood obesity action

A study suggesting working mothers are to blame for childhood obesity has come under fire.

The UK’s childhood obesity crisis has long been associated with consuming too much junk food and a lack of physical activity, but now researchers are placing the blame on mothers who work either full or part-time.

The research, conducted by University College London, looked at 20,000 families and claims to be the first to link mothers who work to the weight of their children.

It found that children with employed mothers were more likely to be heavier than those with stay-at-home mums and that children of single working mothers were at the most risk with 25 per cent more likely to be overweight.

The researchers also claim that children of mothers who work full time are 29 per cent less likely to eat a regular breakfast and apparently 19 per cent more likely to watch TV for more than three hours a day.

In contrast, the scientists concluded that the father’s employment has “no significant effect” on the weight of children.

Instead, they suggest that fathers are more likely to be “active players” in their child’s well-being if the mothers provide the majority of childcare.

Lead author of the study, professor Emla Fitzsimons told The Sunday Times: “We find that children whose mothers work are more likely to have increased sedentary behaviour and poorer dietary habits.”

The research has since been criticised online for placing the blame on women, with one person writing: “As if we don't get enough grief…damned if you are a working mum and damned if you don't work.”

Another added: “Blame working Mums, if they’re single - even more. It’s women’s fault again!”

A third sarcastically 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.”

Last year, Public Health England reported that the number of severely obese children between the ages of 10 and 11 had reached a record high.

It was reported that around one in every 25 children (4.07 per cent) in year 6 were classed as being severely obese last year, compared to 3.17 per cent in 2006/07.

Health campaigners branded the figures “shocking” but “not surprising”, and called for government plans to tackle childhood obesity to be swiftly implemented.

The University College London study will be published next month in the journal SSM – Population.

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