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J Epidemiol Community Health. 2009 May;63(5):340-50. doi: 10.1136/jech.2008.077073. Epub 2009 Feb 4.

Maternal employment and indicators of child health: a systematic review in pre-school children in OECD countries.

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  • 1Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, UK.



The aim of the study was to determine whether maternal employment is associated with two indicators of family health behaviour in pre-school children--childhood vaccination uptake, and childhood overweight including obesity--in OECD countries.


Narrative systematic review of nine medical/social science databases (1980-2007), relevant websites, retrieved article reference lists and consultation with experts. Relevant articles in English published from 1980 were included; studies of pregnancy, single occupational groups and non-OECD countries were excluded.


8924 abstracts yielded 21 eligible articles: 15 on vaccination and 6 on overweight. Meta-analysis was not possible. Vaccination uptake appeared at least as good or better for children of employed as unemployed mothers. Child overweight may be more prevalent with maternal employment, particularly if long hours are worked.


Maternal employment may have variable effects on pre-school children's health. Policies promoting parental employment should monitor and evaluate the effect on the health and wellbeing of all members of the family.

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