PHRC Phase 2 (2011-2019) projects – Projects related to living and working conditions

In what circumstances can parental employment improve child health?

Lead investigator

Professor Catherine Law, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology, Institute of Child Health, University College London


Parental employment is a main plank of UK policies to reduce child poverty and its associated health inequalities. However, there has been little research on how the different patterns of employment and work that characterise modern families (in their many forms) are associated with children’s health and health inequalities. Parental, particularly maternal, employment might lead to adverse or beneficial effects on children’s health through a variety of hypothesised pathways (related to economic benefits of working, opportunity costs, substituted child care, etc), with plausible child health-related outcomes including health behaviours, wellbeing, mental health, unintentional injuries, health care seeking behaviours (e.g. immunisation) and parental health.

Aims, methods and contribution

This project will test these hypothesised pathways between parental (particularly maternal) employment and indicators of child health through: 1) secondary data analysis of the Millennium Cohort Study, a large, nationally representative cohort of children born at the turn of the century; 2) a systematic review of qualitative literature related to the findings of the secondary data analysis, supplemented by primary qualitative research (focus groups and case studies). Findings from the quantitative and qualitative work will be used to draw out how policy and practice might use this information to promote child health.


01/06/2011 - 31/08/2013 (27 months)