Children's Work: The Less-Considered Childhood Occupation

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Abstract

Children's work has largely been overlooked by researchers of many disciplines due to sociohistorical trends that fostered the notion that childhood should be a time free of work. Likewise, it has received little attention in occupational therapy most likely due to the influence of these historical developments on occupational therapy rhetoric and values. This paper begins by describing the influence of child labor laws and reformation on children's participation in work. Next, using a comprehensive review of the literature gathered from social sciences, a critical examination of the historical and current research on children's work is provided. This synthesis is framed in concepts of occupational science analyzing the evidence that describes the nature, form, function, and meaning of children's work. For occupational therapists working with children with disabilities, this research provides beginning guidelines for occupation-based work interventions and typical expectations for nondisabled children that may be applied using clinical reasoning to populations with disabilities.

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