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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 April, 2005, 14:44 GMT 15:44 UK
Working mums provide better diets
Children were asked what foods they ate
The children of women who work have better diets than those whose mothers stay at home, researchers have found.

The University of Glasgow researchers analysed information from over 2,000 11-year-olds and their parents.

They found children whose mothers did not work were more likely to eat unhealthy snacks.

The researchers said the study turned the stereotype of working mothers dishing out less healthy meals "on its head".

Family dynamics and diets in particular may well have changed
Dr Hannah Theobald, British Nutrition Foundation

They suggest women who work take more care over what their children eat, possibly because they feel guilty about not being at home with their children.

The data was collected in 1994 to 1995 as part of a major study of the health and lifestyles of children in the West of Scotland.

Children were asked which foods they ate at mealtimes and whether they consumed sweets, chocolate, cake biscuits and fizzy drinks.

Parents provided information about the household, the mother's qualifications and whether or not she was working.

The researchers found 63% of children whose mothers were at home full-time were classed as eating "less healthily", compared to 52% of those whose mothers worked full-time.

Mothers who worked full-time did tend to live in less deprived areas, which the researchers said could account for the difference.

Boys - and children living in more deprived areas - were more likely to eat less healthily.

'Eating together'

Dr Helen Sweeting, from the Medical Research Council's Social and Public Health Sciences Unit at the University of Glasgow, said the study contradicted earlier work which suggested children who eat more meals with their families ate more healthily.

"Our finding of no relationship is surprising.

"The study, which is one of very few to look at maternal employment and children's diets, turns on its head the stereotype of working mothers dishing out ready-made less healthy meals and suggests that children of working mothers might be fed more healthily.

Maybe the average working mum can afford the more expensive healthy options
Alex, Aylesbury, UK

"But the factors which had the strongest relationships with poorer diet were living in a deprived area and having a mother with fewer qualifications."

She added: "Working mothers may possibly make more of an effort with their children's diet because of feelings of guilt."

Dr Hannah Theobald of the British Nutrition Foundation, said: "It would be interesting to repeat the study in younger children because as children get older, they tend to have more of a say in what is eaten at meal times."

But she added: "Studies looking at the association between non-working and working mothers and children's' diets tend to be inconsistent.

"More research needs to be done in this area to draw firm conclusions. We do know that healthier meals tend to be consumed if the family eats together as one unit.

"It is worth bearing in mind that this study was conducted 10 years ago; family dynamics and diets in particular may well have changed in that time."

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12 Apr 05 |  Scotland
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23 Mar 05 |  West Midlands

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