role distancing (social role distancing)

(noun) When an individual intentionally promotes a lack of attachment and commitment to a role or does not fully engage in a role’s performance.

Example: When an employee must fire fellow employees and says “I am just doing my job” or a server in a restaurant will remind customers that they are not only a server but also a student or artist.

Audio Pronunciation: (role dis·tanc·ing)

Download Audio Pronunciation: role distancing.mp3

Usage Notes:

  • Plural: role distancings
  • The terms role distancing and social role distancing are used interchangeably in a sociological context.
  • Role distancing decreases role strain.
  • A type of impression management.
  • Variant form: role-distancing
  • Role distancing used in a sentence: I practiced role distancing while I was working a dead end job.

Related Quotations:

  • “People use distancing techniques when they do not want others to take them as the ‘self’ implied in a particular role, especially if they think the role is ‘beneath them'” (Kendall 2006:119).

Additional Information:

Related Terms: 


Kendall, Diane. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth.

Works Consulted

Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. 2011. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. 2007. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (

Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (

How to Cite the Definition of Role Distancing

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “role distancing.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 16, 2019 (

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

role distancing. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “role distancing.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 16, 2019.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“role distancing.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 16 Jun. 2019. <>.