Fathers’ work schedules may be linked with their children’s weight

Working nonstandard hours can do a number on employees’ health, but a study suggests it may also impact obesity levels in their children.

Australian researchers looked at how parents’ odd work timetables affected the weight of their children. Study participants included 434 9-year-olds, among whom 22.8% were overweight or obese.

A nonstandard work schedule was defined as always or often working shift schedules, working after 6 p.m., or working overnight or on weekends. The authors made the point that working odd hours is becoming increasingly common, especially in the service industry.

In 75% of two-parent families both were employed, and in single-parent families almost 75% of parents were employed. In 32.5% of families mothers had irregular work schedules, in 39.4% of families fathers had nonstandard schedules and in 14.9% of two-parent families, both parents worked nonstandard schedules.


Researchers discovered that having a father who worked an irregular schedule was strongly linked with a child being overweight or obese, even after controlling for such issues as household income and various lifestyle factors. A weaker association was seen between both parents having nonstandard schedules and the child being overweight or obese. No link was seen between the mothers’ work schedule and obesity.

The authors said that a father’s odd work schedule could put additional time stresses on families, which may mean having to make concessions at mealtime. It could also put added pressure on mothers, who are still the main caretakers of their children.

The study was recently published online in the International Journal of Obesity.