Role Theory: What is Our Role in Society

Role Theory: What is Our Role in Society

Social roles are the roles that we exercise within society; in other words, they detail and represent what activities or behaviors are expected in a particular social environment. Who are the ones who define which tasks correspond to us? Are we assigned a role already done or do we build it ourselves? Let’s solve these doubts in this article.

Roles are assigned in all groups. Within a team, for example, the role of defender, attacker, winger, or pivot; within the family, with the role of mother, father, or brother; or in work, with the role of director, secretary, trainee, or assistant. The same person, depending on the context in which he finds himself, can play different roles: that of an intern at work, son in the family, and clown in a group of friends, for example. The role is built and everyone adapts it to their person. It may initially be defined by what the other members of the group expect of my conduct, but only in general terms, since everyone will subsequently have to adapt these expectations and other requirements to their characteristics.

The stressors associated with Our role in Society

Role-related issues can come from a variety of sources:

Role ambiguity:

In this case, we have to adapt to a role in which we do not know what we have to do. Our role is not clear, nor do we know what others expect from our behavior or our contribution to the group.

Role conflict:

In this context, one may have to face two different types of problems. First, the conflict in the same role, in other words, when the role does not correspond to me when I cannot adapt to what is asked of me, when this role exceeds my capacities when it does not with my ideology, or that I do not feel comfortable adopting the behaviors it entails. The other problem will be role conflict; for example, I am assigned two different roles within a group, imagine trainee and student, or even parent and employee at the same time, and this generates stress in me because I am unable to fulfill both roles simultaneously.

Assigned roles:

These are the problems arising from having to adapt to an already determined role and relying on little room for maneuvering to build our own. One can think here for an example of gender roles, of behaviors already expected by the group for the simple fact of being a man or a woman.

Role overload:

The behaviors that are expected when assuming a role demand a lot from everyone: for the subject, overcoming their capacity to adapt generates stress.

Poor roles: this problem arises in a context contrary to the previous point when the subject believes that he can give much more of himself but that his role does not allow him to do so.

Build the role

Our role in society or in the group to which we belong is dynamic and evolving. In many cases in this transformation, it is ourselves, as principal actors, who have a greater responsibility as to the direction to be given to this role. In this sense, the problems usually appear when we behave like a drifting boat, when we try to adopt a role that exceeds the limits of our flexibility or when we want to introduce too rapid or too radical changes in our functions.

Everyone’s role should be unique and transferable; there may be “positions” to which we adapt when we access a new group, but starting from some general lines and behaviors, it is the role that must adapt to us and not the other way around, as this happens very often.

Building your role requires time and above all, intelligence. Ultimately, the role is the opportunity to show the world what we are capable of bringing.


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