Definition of Role
(noun) A position containing a set of socially defined attributes and expectations that determine appropriate behavior for an individual or group based on their status in relation to other people or groups.
Example of Role
- An individual in the role of ‘parent‘ is expected to care for their children and protect them from harm.
- American English – /rOHl/
- British English – /rOHl/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /roʊl/
- British English – /rəʊl/
- Plural: roles
- The terms “role” and “social role” are used interchangeably in a sociological context.
- An individual simultaneously occupies multiple roles.
- Roles are complementary, dynamic, and relational.
- The distinction between a role and status is a role is what you “do” and a status is what you “are.” Being provider for a child is a role, being a parent is a status.
- “Families of orientation, procreation, and cohabitation provide us with some of the most important roles we will assume in life. The nuclear family roles (such as parent, child, husband, wife, and sibling) combine with extended family roles (such as grandparent, aunt, uncle, cousin, and in-law) to form the kinship system” (Strong, Devault, and Cohen 2011:19).
- “In American society, the basic kinship system consists of parents and children, but it may include other relatives as well, especially grandparents. Each person in this system has certain rights and obligations as a result of his or her position in the family structure. Furthermore, a person may occupy several positions at the same time. For example, an 18-year-old woman may simultaneously be a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, and a granddaughter. Each role entails different rights and obligations. As a daughter, the young woman may have to defer to certain decisions of her parents; as a sister, to share her bedroom; as a cousin, to attend a wedding; and as a granddaughter, to visit her grandparents during the holidays” (Strong, Devault, and Cohen 2011:19).
- “Sociologists have taken the notion of role from the theater. Actors perform their roles in accordance with a script (analogous to culture), what the other actors say and do, and the reactions of the audience. But the theater analogy has its weaknesses. Unlike actors, we are seldom conscious of ‘acting’ according to a script as we go about our daily activities. And in life we must do a great deal of improvising, continually testing and changing our actions in accordance with the behavior of other people” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:58–59).
- Family and Kinship Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Role Theory Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “role” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- role conflict
- role distancing
- role exit
- role expectation
- role performance
- role reversal
- role segregation
- role set
- role strain
- role taking
- role theory
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ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “role.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved December 11, 2023 (https://sociologydictionary.org/role/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
role. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/role/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “role.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed December 11, 2023. https://sociologydictionary.org/role/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“role.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 11 Dec. 2023. <https://sociologydictionary.org/role/>.