Each and every one of us has a role to play. A role is the position of power that someone places on another person. Role Theory states that we are all in a role in various relationships as a spouse, a partner, a lover, a mother/father, a son/daughter, a brother/sister, etc. Within the role we take on responsibilities of that role. We assumed dominant or submissive tendency in certain role. We follow or we lead. We assume many roles and it is a balancing act to prioritize the different way to be in the different roles. Every one of us have at least one role, belonging to a group (EG: family group) promotes our self-worth, which is essential to our survival needs.
Role expectation is a perception of others. Social norms dictate that we must behave, act, and be certain way in certain situation. In the UK, the etiquette for driving is on the left side of the road. Therefore, as a road user (a role), you are expected to drive on the left side of the road. Role Theory highlights dominant or submissive tendencies. Role expectation of a dominant person can vary, depending on the dynamic of the relationship. A dominant position is a person who has power and influence over another. Someone who command, control, govern and presides over another person. It can range from being a leader, a chief, a boss, an advisory to someone with dependents and central to the community. Role expectation of a submissive person can be someone in co-dependent relationships such as mother-child or carer-patient. This person readily accepts authority and the wills of others. The submissive person totally conforms, obedient and is dependent on others. As role expectation is placed upon us by others based upon power, it can be given or taken away. However, I would stress that role expectation in the workplace is somewhat different to interpersonal roles in relationship formation.
In the perspective of Sociologists, role theory is considering as everyday activities acting-in to conform to the in-group social norm, or acting out to rebel against the harsh discipline of the social groups. Each social role is a set of rights, duties, expectations, norms and behaviours that a person has to face and fulfill. The theory takes the assumption that people will behave in a predictable way, and that people will act specifically in context of their roles that they are recognized as in groups.
For a closer look at some of our most common roles; its responsibilities, expectancy and behaviours.
- Wife/Husband – a person of interest, a person who we have chosen to be our partner, a person outside the family group. This person satisfies our intimate needs, physically, emotionally and mentally. This person is expected to be loyal, committed and love us in return for the investment that we put into the relationship.
- Mother/Father – a provider to support their children or other dependents. A person to guide, direct and educate their children or other dependents. This person is responsible for her/his children well-being and development until they reach adulthood. This person is responsible for providing the safety of home, security, love, affection, and nurturing their children or other dependents.
- Son/Daughter – as a dependent child, this person need help and support from their parents and other family group members in order to grow and learn until they can become independent. Then, they venture outside the family group confidently. Later on in their lives, their role will switch; their parents being dependent on the children.
- Brother/Sister – as a sibling and depending on your position of birth, your role in this sub-category will vary. An eldest child may have to be responsible for their little brother or sister, a mischievous middle child usually gets away with a lot and the youngest child is often spoils by the parents and the elder siblings. Each sibling will be fighting each other for their position of power in the family group, and for the affection of their parents or carers.
- Aunt/Uncle/Niece/Nephew etc – a distance member of the family, may be seen as an advisory person to approach when an immediate family member becomes difficult to tolerate. This person offers guidance and different perspective to the problem, still maintaining the core belief and values of the family group.
Each person may have to manage the many roles that they hold. And each role come with set of rules, expectations and functions that have to be adhere to. In day-to-day situation, juggling the many different roles often create stress and anxiety and can often be the source of many conflicts. Many of our roles carry social behaviour that we have to comply within the group. Roles, in fact, is partly dictated by our social structure. And, in turn, each person can accept and influence the norm expectations and behaviours of other group members.
As we grow up through the developmental stages, we begin to explore our ecology outside the family group. We learn and take on different roles with our peers and people in different establishment such as school, social club, religious community groups, scouts etc. It is often a difficult transition to adopt new or different belief system to ones we learned from the family group. Sometime, we have to set aside old habits and re-learn new skills in order to be part of the new in-group. Depending on our personality type, we may choose to stay close to those with the same set of beliefs originally held or we might rebel against what we have learned and become influenced by new experiences of the outside groups.
Whatever roles you decide to embrace, one of the important thing to remember is that you have a choice to choose the role that you are most comfortable with. You can choose how to behave in the role. You can choose how to act in the role. You can be who you want to be.
However, if you need help identifying and balancing your many roles, contact me and we can walk the tight-rope together.