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
Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Strong, Bryan, Christine DeVault, and Theodore F. Cohen. 2011. The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. 11th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.
Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Branscombe, Nyla R., and Robert A. Baron. 2017. Social Psychology. 14th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson.
Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. Essentials of Sociology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
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.
Clinard, Marshall Barron, and Robert Frank Meier. 2011. Sociology of Deviant Behavior. 14th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Delaney, Tim, and Tim Madigan. 2015. The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Dillon, Michele. 2014. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-first Century. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.
Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.
Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.
Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.
O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.
Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.
Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Thorpe, Christopher, Chris Yuill, Mitchell Hobbs, Sarah Tomley, and Marcus Weeks. 2015. The Sociology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained. London: Dorling Kindersley.
Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “role.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved April 17, 2021 (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 April 17, 2021. https://sociologydictionary.org/role/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“role.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 17 Apr. 2021. <https://sociologydictionary.org/role/>.