Objective: Studies in school-age children have consistently shown a positive association between maternal paid work hours and child obesity. However, there is conflicting evidence about the impact of maternal work hours scheduled at nonstandard times (for example, evenings, nights or weekends), and no previous examination of paternal work schedules and child weight. We examined the associations between maternal, paternal and combined parental paid work schedules and overweight/obesity in children at age 9 years.
Methods: Data were analysed from the most recent follow-up of 9-year-old children (n=434) in an Australian birth cohort study. Children were measured and classified as overweight/obese using the International Obesity Taskforce body mass index cutoff points. Current working conditions of parents were obtained from a structured interview with the primary caregiver. Logistic regression analyses were used to investigate the effect of parental work schedules on child overweight/obesity with adjustment for a range of sociodemographic and household factors associated with parental employment and child weight.
Results: At 9 years of age, 99 children (22.8%) were overweight or obese. When parental work schedules were examined separately, child overweight/obesity was significantly associated with paternal nonstandard work schedules (adjusted odds ratio (OR) 1.97, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08-3.61). There was no association with any type of maternal work schedule. We also found an association between child overweight/obesity and circumstances in which both parents worked nonstandard schedules; however, this was of borderline statistical significance in the adjusted models (adjusted OR 2.26, 95% CI 0.99-5.16).
Conclusion: Work hours scheduled at nonstandard times, when worked by the father or both parents, were associated with child overweight and obesity. These findings indicate the potential importance of fathers' paid work arrangements for child overweight/obesity, which until recently has largely been ignored.