The study shows that both maternal depression and maternal obesity affect the amount of time their preschool children watch television. Excessive TV watching has been linked to childhood obesity.
The researchers surveyed 150 low-income mothers of preschool children. These mothers reported that their children watched an average of two hours of TV a day. Children of mothers who were normal weight but depressed watched an additional half-hour of television each day. Those children whose mothers were both obese and depressed watch an additional hour.
"There were high levels of depression and obesity in these mothers," says Hillary Burdette, M.D., a physician in the division of General and Community Pediatrics at Cincinnati Children's. "Half of these mothers were obese, depressed, or both. We also found that children who watched more TV tended to spend less time outdoors."
Dr. Burdette says caregivers need to examine more closely how maternal well-being, particularly depression, affects how children spend their time.
The study, funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service, will be presented at a meeting of the North American Association for the Study of Obesity in Quebec City.