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

Journal of Occupational Science 10/2009; 16(3):203-207. DOI: 10.1080/14427591.2009.9686663


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.

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    • "The occupational science literature is replete with examples of how parents orchestrate co-constructed daily occupations to meet their parenting ideals: safeguarding their children's health, facilitating occupational development and socialising their children to function within their cultural context (Pierce 2009). These co-occupations have been defined as interactive responses, 'a synchronous back and forth between the occupational experiences of the individuals involved, the action of one shaping the action of the other' (Pierce 2009, p204). Pickens and Pizur-Barnekow (2009) proposed that co-occupations include shared physicality, shared emotionality and shared intentionality. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: The aim of this study was to understand the perspectives of mothers when mother and child both have sensory processing challenges, and how the mother's coping strategies for managing her sensory needs influence mothering co-occupations and parenting ideals. Method: Four mothers with sensory processing challenges participated in semi-structured interviews. Data were analysed using grounded theory principles. Findings: Mothers described managing their sensory needs while negotiating the conflicting sensory preferences of their children. Coping strategies included understanding sensory processing patterns of behaviour and structuring daily activities and the environment. Some coping strategies had secondary consequences of a ripple effect, a reverberating impact that exacerbated the challenges of unmet sensory needs and interfered with co-occupations and parenting ideals. Conclusion: Implications for mothers include understanding how their sensory processing transacts with their children's sensory preferences. Implications for practitioners include attending to the sensory processing patterns and coping strategies of both children and parents.
    Full-text · Article · Oct 2012
    • "In the widest sense, co-occupation involves two or more people engaging in an activity such that each person influences the reaction of the other person. The conceptualisation by Pierce (2009, p. 203) represents this broad view, with the main characteristic of cooccupation being its highly interactive nature in which the activities of the people involved shape each other's responses. The interaction does not necessarily involve shared space, meaning, affect, intention, or time. "
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    ABSTRACT: This article may be used for research, teaching, and private study purposes. Any substantial or systematic reproduction, redistribution, reselling, loan, sub-licensing, systematic supply, or distribution in any form to anyone is expressly forbidden. The publisher does not give any warranty express or implied or make any representation that the contents will be complete or accurate or up to date. The accuracy of any instructions, formulae, and drug doses should be independently verified with primary sources. The publisher shall not be liable for any loss, actions, claims, proceedings,
    No preview · Article · Sep 2012 · Journal of Occupational Science
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    • "Furthermore, occupations are often part of shared projects, with those that implicitly involve two or more individuals termed co-occupations (Zemke & Clark, 1996). Co-occupation has been described by Pierce as a dance between two individuals that sequentially shapes the occupations of both persons (Pierce, 2009). Children' s learning occurs in the interactions between persons in the environment and, from early on, young children show motivation to engage in occupations by imitating adults (Davis & Polatajko , 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: The prevalence of childhood obesity is increasing and is associated with how families manage their daily occupations. Previous studies suggest that it should be possible to identify patterns of daily occupations that promote health and prevent illness. However, it is unknown how family members' patterns are shared. This study aimed at gaining knowledge about parents' shared patterns of daily occupations. Thirty parents enrolled in a randomized controlled trial involving parents of children aged 4–6 years old with obesity, were included. The study used a mixed methods design. Data from time-geographical diaries describing daily occupations on one ordinary weekday were collected. A sequential exploratory strategy design was used, with qualitative and quantitative data analysis. Four main groups of family types were identified: the togetherness focused family, the child focused family, the individual focused family and the parent-child focused family. These groups' shared patterns of daily occupations differed in terms of divisions of household work, paid work and the amount of time spent together as a family. The results highlight and generate a new understanding of how parents' shared patterns of daily occupations are shaped in families.
    Full-text · Article · Aug 2012 · Journal of Occupational Science
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