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Int J Obes (Lond). 2011 Jul;35(7):945-52. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2011.82. Epub 2011 Apr 26.

Associations of maternal employment and three-generation families with pre-school children's overweight and obesity in Japan.

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Department of Health Promotion Science, School of Public Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.



Maternal employment has been shown to be associated with childhood overweight and obesity (Ow/Ob), but the presence of family members who care for children in place of the mothers might influence children's Ow/Ob and lifestyles. The influence of maternal employment on children's Ow/Ob should be examined together with the presence of caregivers such as grandparents.


The effects of maternal employment and the presence of grandparents on lifestyles and Ow/Ob in Japanese pre-school children were investigated.


Cross-sectional study on 2114 children aged 3-6 years who attended all childcare facilities in a city and primary caregivers was conducted.


Children's weight and height, family environments (family members, maternal employment, single parent, number of siblings and parental Ow/Ob) and lifestyles (dietary, physical activity and sleeping habits) were surveyed using a self-administered questionnaire. Ow/Ob was defined by the International Obesity Task Force cut-offs.


The eligible participants were 1765 children. The prevalence of Ow/Ob was 8.4% in boys and 9.9% in girls. Maternal employment was associated positively with irregular mealtimes, unfixed snacking times, bedtime after 10 p.m. and nighttime sleep duration of less than 10 h, whereas three-generation families were associated negatively with irregular mealtimes after adjustment for children's characteristics and family environments. Irregular mealtimes (OR (95% CI); 2.03 (1.36, 3.06)) and nighttime sleep duration of less than 10 h (1.96 (1.28, 3.01)) were associated with increased risks of being Ow/Ob. Both maternal employment and three-generation families were significantly associated with children's Ow/Ob. However, three-generation families maintained a significant association (1.59 (1.08, 2.35)) after adjustment for maternal employment.


These study results suggest that the grandparents who care for pre-school children in place of mothers are more likely to contribute to childhood Ow/Ob than maternal employment. The family-focused lifestyle strategies to prevent childhood Ow/Ob must include grandparents who care for children.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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