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Study: Working moms have sicker kids

By Nadine Wimmer | Posted - Feb. 18, 2011 at 6:12 p.m.

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SALT LAKE CITY -- North Carolina State University researchers say children of working mothers have much higher risks of health problems, injuries and accidents.

The study says they have about a 200 percent increase in the likelihood of overnight hospitalization, asthma episodes and injuries or poisonings.

For Pahn Vilay Davis, the mother of two young boys, the results of the study are a little scary.

“If they ever get sick from that, you know, from you dropping them off at day care, you feel like you are a terrible mom,” said Davis.

The study made another mother nervous and upset. “He’s been sick a lot this year, he’s been to the doctor three times in the past month,” said Nicole Pappas, mother of a 4-year-old boy.

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"We were never sick until I went back to work now we are always getting something I bring home from work." -- Stefanie Kerr
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The researchers looked at 20 years of data from the National Health Interview Survey involving 89,000 children ages 7 to 17.

The study's author, Dr. Melinda Morrill, warned against making sweeping moral judgments against mothers who work outside the home. She said parenting choices involve trade-offs.

Bonnie Peters, executive director of the Family Support Center, agrees.

“All of the factors in the equation need to be looked at and determined before we go off saying yea or nay about working moms are not great mothers,” Peters said.

While children who attend day care tend to get more frequent infections and are usually a little bit sicker most of the time, exposing children to that to stimulate their immune system is a good thing, says Dr. Heather Jackson at the Foothill Family Clinic.

“Later in their lives, they have a little bit better immune systems than kids who have been sheltered a little bit,” she said.

Past studies have pointed to children of working mothers having better health because of the benefit of greater income and insurance.

“It would be very easy for mothers who work to become very guilt-ridden because ‘Oh my goodness, I work, therefore that equates me with being a bad mother,’” said Peters, “and that’s absolutely not right.”

“Do your best, that’s all you can do,” Jackson said.

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