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J Epidemiol Community Health 63:340-350 doi:10.1136/jech.2008.077073
  • Essay

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

  1. M Mindlin,
  2. R Jenkins,
  3. C Law
  1. Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCL Institute of Child Health, London
  1. Professor C Law, Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics, UCL Institute of Child Health, 30 Guilford St, London WC1N 1EH, UK; c.law{at}ich.ucl.ac.uk
  • Accepted 15 December 2008
  • Published Online First 4 February 2009

Abstract

Background: 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.

Methods: 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.

Results: 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.

Conclusions: 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.

Footnotes

  • Contributors: MJM and CL contributed to the conception, design and interpretation of the data. MJM conducted the searches. MJM and RJ screened the references for inclusion and extracted data from the included articles. MJM, RJ and CL contributed to drafting the article. All authors have seen and approved the final version. MJM will act as guarantor for the paper.

  • Funding: M Mindlin completed this work while on academic placement from the London Deanery Public Health Training Scheme. This work was undertaken at GOSH/UCL Institute of Child Health, which received a proportion of funding from the Department of Health’s NIHR Biomedical Research Centres funding scheme. The Centre for Paediatric Epidemiology and Biostatistics also benefits from funding support from the Medical Research Council in its capacity as the MRC Centre of Epidemiology for Child Health. The study design, collection, analysis and interpretation of data, writing of the report, and the decision to submit the article for publication was conducted independent of the funding sources.

  • Competing interests: None.