Definition of Instrumental Role
Examples of Instrumental Role
- Men as sole “breadwinners” within families.
Etymology of Instrumental Role
- Coined by Talcott Parsons (1902–1979) and Robert Freed Bales (1916–2004) in Family Socialization and Interaction Process (1955), which stated two basic roles must be performed in any group: instrumental roles and expressive roles.
Instrumental Role Pronunciation
Syllabification: in·stru·men·tal role
- American English – /in-struh-mEnt-l rOHl/
- British English – /in-struh-mEn-tuhl rOHl/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˌɪnstrəˈmɛntəl roʊl/
- British English – /ˌɪnstrʊˈmɛntl rəʊl/
- Plural: instrumental roles
- Parsons and Bales used functionalist theory to explain family dynamics. They contended that some roles were more suited to one gender over the other and societies are more stable when roles are performed by the appropriate gender. This separation ensured a balanced and coordinated family life, reducing conflict while providing stability.
- Expressive roles and instrumental roles are complementary, one can only exist in reference to the other. However, society typically reward instrumental roles with more power, prestige, and wealth. Expressive roles have a tendency to be dismissed as instinctive and unskilled, the “natural” work for women, who typically perform this role. This differentiation of roles, supports patriarchal societies as men are rewarded more than women.
- Traditional expressive roles and instrumental roles are shifting as industrialized societies move more towards service sector work and expectations on women and men change.
- Family and Kinship Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “instrumental” and “role” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “instrumental role.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved October 19, 2021 (https://sociologydictionary.org/instrumental-role/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
instrumental role. (2015). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/instrumental-role/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “instrumental role.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed October 19, 2021. https://sociologydictionary.org/instrumental-role/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“instrumental role.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 19 Oct. 2021. <https://sociologydictionary.org/instrumental-role/>.