role (social role)

(noun) A set of socially defined attributes and expectations that determine appropriate behaviors for an individual or group often based on their status in relation to other people or groups.

Example: A person in a parental role is expected to feed and protect their child from harm.

Audio Pronunciation: (role)

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Usage Notes:

  • 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.
  • Role used in a sentence: Students need to take an active role in their education.

Related Quotations:

  • “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).

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Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw Hill.