Objectives: To assess the relationship between maternal employment and children's dietary diversity in rural Guatemala.
Methods: A mixed-method design was used to compare quantitative findings on children's dietary diversity collected from Food Frequency Questionnaires (FFQs) (n = 802), with qualitative data from in-depth interviews (IDIs) with a sub-sample of participants (n = 20). Mothers reported the number of times per week their child consumed select food items from seven food groups (grains, legumes, vitamin A-rich fruits & vegetables, other fruits & vegetables, eggs, dairy and meat). The total for each food item was then divided by seven to find the number of times the child consumed each food per day. Then, the daily consumption of all food items within a category was totaled for each food group. If the total for the food group was at least one, the child was given one point for daily consumption, with a maximum dietary diversity score (DDS) of seven. Using multivariate linear regression, we compared the DDS of children of employed mothers to the DDS of children of unemployed mothers. We used separate multivariate logistic regression models to estimate the association between maternal employment and consumption of each food group. Models were adjusted for maternal (age, education, marital status, parity), child (age, sex), and household (size) characteristics. IDIs explored the mechanisms by which food purchasing and preparation, as well as child-feeding behavior differed for employed and unemployed women.
Results: Maternal employment (versus unemployment) was associated with higher dietary diversity scores for children (β = 0.3; 95% CI: 0.06,0.54). The odds of consuming each food group did not differ significantly between children of employed and unemployed women, except for dairy (OR: 1.9, 95% CI: 1.0, 2.6), but the general trend suggested children of employed women were more likely to consume six of the seven food groups. Qualitative data indicates that employed women purchase higher quality and greater quantities of food.
Conclusions: Maternal employment is associated with higher children's dietary diversity scores in rural Guatemala. Quantitative and qualitative data suggests that maternal employment is related to food purchasing behavior.
Funding Sources: Mathile Institute & Global Obesity Prevention Center at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.