Objective: 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.
Design: Narrative systematic review.
Data sources: Nine medical/social science databases (1980-2007); relevant websites; retrieved article reference lists; consultation with experts.
Review methods: We included relevant articles in English published from 1980; we excluded studies of pregnancy, single occupational groups, non-OECD countries.
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.