Social status and role

Social status and role

The concepts of social status and role are often viewed as twin concepts. The concept of social status is closely related to social roles. As individuals, we have a status and role in fulfilling life in society.

Social status is a social position that an individual holds within society. Status helps us to identify our relationships with others in society. The role is the expected behaviour from someone who has a particular status.

General Definitions of Status and Role

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary

Status is defined as a position or rank in relation to others.

The role is defined as a socially expected behaviour pattern usually determined by an individual’s status in a particular society.

According to the Cambridge dictionary

Status is an accepted or official position, especially in a social group.

The role is the position or purpose that someone or something has in a situation, organization, society or relationship.

Concept of Social status and role

Status and role are the primary tools for the analysis of social structure. Status is an important social structure that helps members of all types of societies to understand their everyday interactions.

Ralph Linton says that “status is the place in a particular system, which a certain individual occupies at a particular time”.

In society, the individual is the member and all the individuals are given some status or they get the status and according to that status, they play their respective roles. This role of theirs is essential for their survival and ultimately for the survival of society as a whole.

According to Ralph Linton, there are two types of status-

Ascribed status

It is a social status that a person acquires at birth. It happens involuntarily.

Achieved status

It is a social position a person takes on voluntarily that reflects personal ability and effort. These are acquired by doing something.

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According to Charles S. Johnson, “role is expectations and obligations held by other members concerning the behaviour of the position incumbent”.

The status and their respective roles keep changing with time. When a child is born he is a child and when he grows up and finds a job, he becomes an employee. Later in life, he becomes one’s husband, parent and grandparent, so the status and role of the individual keep on changing according to the current situations.

A person holds the status and plays a role. Like statuses, each individual of a society has a role set. A role set helps a person identify multiple roles associated with a single position.

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Concept of Role conflict and role strain

Commonly being a member of a society, people have multiple overlapping statuses and roles. For example, a man who is a father to some children may be the boss, brother, or son of several other people. For each of these statuses, he is expected to play different roles.

Individuals experience role conflict when they find themselves being pulled in different directions while dealing with multiple responsibilities required from their different statuses.

Role strain is the tension among their roles connected to single status. Engaging in various roles associated with status can be a difficult balancing act at times.

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Role conflict occurs across different role sets while role strain occurs within the same role sets.

Now that you have learned the concepts of statuses and roles. Can you identify your status and role sets?


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