Consequences of a Mother’s Job on her Child’s Health

Topic(s): Health & Safety
Publication: Journal of Applied Psychology (2013)
Article: Examining the links between employed mothers' work characteristics, physical activity, and child health
Authors: Ryan C. Johnson and Tammy D. Allen
Reviewed by: Scott Charles Sitrin

The demands of a mother’s job and the health of her child are related, according to a study by Ryan C. Johnson and Tammy D. Allen of the University of South Florida. The more demanding the mother’s job, the worse the health of the child. More specifically, the more demanding a mother’s job is, the less that she is able to engage in physical activity. The child, in seeing his or her mother not engage in exercise, also does not engage in much physical activity, and as a result, his or her health declines.

For this study, data on 359 mother-child pairs was used from two previous studies, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics and the Child Development Supplement II. Areas of interest included the job demands of the mother, the physical activity of the mother, and the health of the child. How structured a mother’s job was, how much opportunity she had to make decisions without supervision, and the average number of hours worked per week served as indicators of levels of job demand. For the physical activity of the mother, mothers responded to prompts such as “Please tell me how often you have participated in the following activities within the past 12 months— physical exercise, such as aerobics, running or lifting weights.” The mother’s report of the child’s amount of exercise served as the indicator of the child’s physical activity. Lastly, for the child’s health, calculations of the child’s body mass index, a self-report by the mother, and a self-report by the child served as measures of the child’s health.