Does mothers’ employment affect adolescents’ weight and activity levels? Improving our empirical estimates

Molly A. Martin, Adam M. Lippert, Kelly D. Chandler, Megan Lemmon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Women's lives are marked by complex work and family routines — routines that have implications for their children's health. Prior research suggests a link between mothers’ work hours and their children's weight, but few studies investigate the child health implications of increasingly common work arrangements, such as telecommuting and flexible work schedules. We examine whether changes in mothers’ work arrangements are associated with changes in adolescents’ weight, physical activity, and sedentary behavior using longitudinal data and fixed effects models to better account for mothers’ social selection in to different work arrangements and children's underlying preferences. With data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent to Adult Health (N = 10,518), we find that changes in mothers’ work arrangements are not significantly associated with adolescents’ weight gain or physical activity but are significantly associated with adolescents’ sedentary behavior. Adolescents’ sedentary behavior declines when mothers become more available after school and increases when mothers work more hours or become unemployed. In sum, after accounting for unobserved, stable traits, including mothers’ selection into jobs with more or less flexibility, mothers’ work arrangements are most strongly associated with adolescents’ sedentary behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)291-300
Number of pages10
JournalSSM - Population Health
Volume4
DOIs
StatePublished - Apr 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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