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Research Article  |   March 2002
Young Children’s Occupations: Explicating the Dynamics of Developmental Processes
Author Affiliations
  • Ruth Humphry, PhD, OTR/L, is Professor, Division of Occupational Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, CB 7120, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-7120; rhumphry@med.unc.edu
Article Information
Early Intervention / Rehabilitation, Participation, and Disability / Children’s Occupations
Research Article   |   March 2002
Young Children’s Occupations: Explicating the Dynamics of Developmental Processes
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2002, Vol. 56, 171-179. doi:10.5014/ajot.56.2.171
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, March/April 2002, Vol. 56, 171-179. doi:10.5014/ajot.56.2.171
Abstract

Describing development as sequential sensorimotor, cognitive, and psychosocial milestones does not explain how children learn to do or improve their occupations. In response to changes within occupational therapy and challenges in early intervention, this article focuses on development of occupation and proposes a dynamic system perspective. Contemporary research suggests that processes are in place to ensure that children develop as occupational beings. Social participation and caregiving routines guide the child toward becoming occupational by introducing intentional acts and by endowing experiences with meaning. A self-organizing process enables children to integrate their immature capacities and engage in occupations. Simultaneously, caregiving shapes these emerging behaviors, ensuring that performance is culturally compatible. Finally, using self-organization to maintain occupational engagement enables the child to accommodate to maturing abilities and environmental challenges. This reorganized pattern in turn is the basis for developmental changes, new behaviors, and refinement of current abilities. Application of concepts is made to acquisition of skills for eating a meal.