Co‐occupation: The challenges of defining concepts original to occupational science

Journal of Occupational Science 10/2009; 16:203-207. DOI: 10.1080/14427591.2009.9686663

ABSTRACT The term co‐occupation was coined in the early days of occupational science and has begun to accrue a grouping of studies that shed light on its dynamic. Its lasting nature as a concept original to occupational science may be due to the fact that it is grounded in the interdisciplinary play literature, as well as the interests of occupational scientists in the interactive social dimension of occupation, especially those of mothers and children. The essence of co‐occupation is its highly interactive nature. Co‐occupation is a dance between the occupations of one individual and another that sequentially shapes the occupations of both persons. Although many of the experiences of co‐occupation are fairly symmetrical, as in playing tennis, this is not a defining characteristic of co‐occupation. Co‐occupations do not necessarily occur within shared space, time, meaning, affect, or intent. Efforts to define co‐occupation bring to light multiple challenges to defining occupational science concepts: the need to welcome multiple definitions, the special logics that can support the definition of new concepts, the tendency to glorify occupation within definitions, the need to differentiate between ideas and experiences within definitions of occupation and its subtypes, the tendency to overemphasize the social dimension of occupations and underemphasize their spatial and temporal aspects, and the need to build new areas of understanding of the transactional characteristics of occupation without discrediting occupational scientists’ valuing of the individual perspectives of those studied. This special issue of the Journal of Occupational Science is a milestone for occupational science, as this unique type of occupation comes of age as a research focus for diverse researchers.