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Research Article  |   July 2003
The Significance of Being Occupied: The Social Construction of Childhood Occupations
Author Affiliations
  • Mary C. Lawlor, ScD, OTR, FAOTA, is Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, 1540 Alcazar Street, Los Angeles, California 90089; lawlor@usc.edu
Article Information
Occupation: Children and Adolescents
Research Article   |   July 2003
The Significance of Being Occupied: The Social Construction of Childhood Occupations
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July/August 2003, Vol. 57, 424-434. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.4.424
American Journal of Occupational Therapy, July/August 2003, Vol. 57, 424-434. doi:10.5014/ajot.57.4.424
Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to explore theoretical and developmental foundations for interpreting children’s engagement with activity in the typically social worlds of childhood. Drawing upon longitudinal ethnographic data, I argue for the need to reframe the study of childhood occupation to the study of “socially occupied beings” as a means of enhancing our understanding of children’s experiences. The focus is on childhood experiences that are socially constructed through adult and child co-created action sequences. The unit of analysis is constructed around a child or children, their adult partners in action, the social world of engagement, and the cultural context. The interpretive focus is on acts and actors, acting in a socially constructed world. Two microethnographic examples are provided; the first relates to an observation of a mother and her children playing in a hospital corridor and the second to an occupational therapist and child engaged in jointly constructed activity within a therapy session. These segments illustrate pragmatic and conceptual understandings of the interconnectedness of social relatedness, intersubjectivity, social action, and engagement. Further development of theoretical and research models is needed to capture the essence of children as socially occupied beings, doing something with someone else that matters.