Participation and social participation: are they distinct concepts?

B. Piskur*, R. Daniëls, M.J. Jongmans, M. Ketelaar, R.J.E.M. Smeets, M. Norton, A.J.H.M. Beurskens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Introduction:The concept of participation has been extensively used in health and social care literature since the World Health Organization introduced its description in the International Classification of Functioning, Disability and Health (ICF) in 2001. More recently, the concept of social participation is frequently used in research articles and policy reports. However, in the ICF, no specific definition exists for social participation, and an explanation of differences between the concepts is not available.Aim:The central question in this discussion article is whether participation, as defined by the ICF, and social participation are distinct concepts. This article illustrates the concepts of participation and social participation, presents a critical discussion of their definitions, followed by implications for rehabilitation and possible future directions.Discussion:A clear definition for participation or social participation does not yet exist. Definitions for social participation differ from each other and are not sufficiently distinct from the ICF definition of participation. Although the ICF is regarded an important conceptual framework, it is criticised for not being comprehensive. The relevance of societal involvement of clients is evident for rehabilitation, but the current ICF definition of participation does not sufficiently capture societal involvement.Conclusion:Changing the ICF's definition of participation towards social roles would overcome a number of its shortcomings. Societal involvement would then be understood in the light of social roles. Consequently, there would be no need to make a distinction between social participation and participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-220
JournalClinical Rehabilitation
Issue number3
Early online date8 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014

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