KEY CONCEPTS OF ROLE THEORY
Role - This term is borrowed from the theater. It refers to a set of behaviors that have some socially agreed-upon functions and an accepted code of norms. Typical roles include the role of teacher, child, or minister—or minister’s child!. Roles exist independently of the people who play them. They serve as a bridge between the individual and society. Roles may represent relationships such as mother, father, friend, worker. They can also represent functions. Instrumental or task-oriented roles aim at getting a job done. Expressive or maintenance roles keep negative feelings under control. Both task-oriented and feeling-oriented roles are necessary for the attainment of goals and the preservation of group solidarity. Role Set - The entire array of roles that one person plays at a given time constitutes that person’s role set. For example, a man may be a father, worker, husband, brother, and friend. Role Complementarity - When roles are complementary, partners in a relationship identify self and others correctly, accurately assume expected roles, and perform appropriately. For example, role complementarity occurs as a medical team performs complicated heart by-pass surgery, friends enjoy a birthday party, or a family camps together. Each person on the team has a particular role to play, and each performs appropriately. Role Reciprocity - Reciprocity involves the typical and expected pairing of role positions, such as husband/wife, mother/child, worker/client, teacher/student. Both roles must be present to complete the function. For example, there can be no teacher without students, no mother without a child. Role Status - Role status is the position in society from which a role is enacted. Status is independent of the role and the person occupying the role. Role-Making - Roles are not a static collection of behaviors. This concept, developed by Ralph Turner, indicates that people shape the roles they play. They bring their own...
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