Explain the concept of role with suitable examples.
Role is defined as the expectation that a person has to perform by their status in society. Since there are multiple statuses in society, each status has a different set of roles they must perform. The function of the role is to maintain stability, and order in society, and help prediction of behavior during an interaction. Everyone has certain duties and obligations attached to their roles. Behavior can be of two types expected and actual according to Newcomb. The first one means how an individual is expected to behave by their status and the second one is the actual behavior of the person which may vary from expected behavior. For example, a police officer is expected to help the citizens, but his actual behavior shows a lack of responsibility.
There are different approaches in sociology to under roles. The first one is the Structuralist view which explains the idea of role-taking. This means that norms or expectations are by their status in the social structure. The more a person is adjusted to their status, the better they perform their roles. Another approach is Social interactionists which talks about role-making that involves a creative process and not passive internalization of roles. People evaluate their roles and negotiate according to their creativity.
There are different classifications of roles- Ascribed roles are roles given since the time of a person’s birth. It includes roles related to age, kinship, class, caste, and others. For example, a person follows a specific religion since they are born. Achieved roles are acquired as a person grows old and has different roles based on their merit. For example, a lawyer behaves professionally in a courtroom. Relational roles refer to complementary roles which cannot exist without the other one. For example, a mother will not exit without their children. Non-relational roles can exist independently without others’ roles. For example, painter, researcher, and such roles.
In a simple society, there is a simple division of labor based on sex. Men do the manual task while women take care of the home and family. Also, people take roles based on their age. It means men killing the buck to prove their manhood while women get married and bear a child. Also, roles are based on their kinship, mother and father, and husband and wife have specific roles. In complex societies, there is a system of social stratification in society in which people from the upper class or caste are given prestigious roles while low-class caste people must perform roles accordingly. There is a specialization of tasks, meaning everyone has specific roles according to their skill and merit.
A person often occupies different statuses and multiple roles which becomes a source of conflict and strain in society. For example, a woman is a mother, wife, teacher, friend, and social worker, and this causes a strain as she has to fulfill all her roles. She is expected to follow her traditional roles of mother and wife but her professional commitment and personal happiness are equally important.