Guided participation and development of care-giving competencies for families of low birth-weight babies
The concept of guided participation is central to theory for supporting families in developing competencies for care of their low birth-weight infants. Guided participation is a process through which an experienced person helps another person who has less experience to become competent in practices that are personally and socially meaningful practices of everyday life. A practice is made up of socially formed activities directed to accomplishing a recurring goal. For a parent, infant care-giving encompasses protecting, comforting and nurturing activities, including feeding. For premature infants, a mother's care-giving begins during the neonatal intensive care unit stay and continues, after the infant's discharge from hospital, in the home. Care-giving competencies are addressed through guided participation of a mother in her care-giving practice. In this process, her working model of herself as parent, her infant, and feeding is constructed and revised through the guided participation process. In this paper, a general theory of guided participation that could be used to promote care-giving competencies is described. Two cases from a pilot study are presented to illustrate the application of the theory to a mother's feeding practice with infants who were born prematurely and who developed problems with feeding during the first year of life. These cases indicate that guided participation offers a means of precisely tailoring support for care-giving to the mother's needs and goals for development of competencies. Further research on how guided participation is best introduced to families of varying resources and life circumstances, how it is best implemented across settings as the infant moves from hospital to home, and how nurses can apply its principles with available resources and opportunities is needed.