In the ongoing battle over which is better, stay-at-home moms or working moms, a new study may lead more SAHM’s to say, “I told you so.” Ah, but not so fast.
Printed in the January issue of Pediatrics, researchers from Ohio State University say that teens are more likely to be obese if they had a poor emotional relationship with their mother when they were toddlers. In fact, those who didn’t have good relationships were twice as likely to become obese when they reached their teenage years.
For the study, researchers examined U.S. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development data collected from hundreds of families who lived in nine states and had children who were born in 1991. Their analysis revealed that the children’s risk of obesity at age 15 was highest among those who had the lowest-quality emotional relationship with their mothers when they were toddlers. More than one-quarter of those who had bad relationships with their mothers were obese as teens, compared with 13% of those who had closer ties with their mothers in their early years.
Why is this the case? Researchers theorize that the risk of obesity may be affected by areas of the brain that control emotions. Apparently, emotional- and stress-related regions of the brain work together with those that control appetite and energy balance.
Lead author, Sarah Anderson, an assistant professor of epidemiology, explained in a news release:
It is possible that childhood obesity could be influenced by interventions that try to improve the emotional bonds between mothers and children rather than focusing only on children’s food intake and activity. The sensitivity a mother displays in interacting with her child may be influenced by factors she can’t necessarily control. Societally, we need to think about how we can support better-quality maternal-child relationships, because that could have an impact on child health.
Now, before this wages an even deeper war between stay-at-home moms and working moms, it’s important to recognize that quality doesn’t always equal quantity. Meaning, just because a mom chooses to stay home with her children, that doesn’t necessarily mean she will form a better emotional relationship with them (sorry, SAHM’s). And it certainly doesn’t mean her kids will be less likely to become obese. (Although, that would be an interesting study.) So, no need to blow this study out of proportion.
There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to working or not working while raising our children, but according to this, it’s evident that no matter which path we choose, the type of relationships we form with our kids is most important. Not just the amount of time we spend with them.
Tell us what you think.