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June 17, 2014

Role Set in Everyday Life

Role set in everyday life
We are social animals. We, as members of the society, rely on the social structure of the society. This helps us to bring about changes in the everyday affairs and mould our lives accordingly. We play multiple roles in the society. An individual can be a brother, father, peer, employer at the same time. All the roles we play have their own distinct features and characteristics.
The roles we play as a part of the society is part of the social structure. It is the second most important building block of social structure after the status ( Macionis, 1997). A role can be defined as the expected actions or behaviour of a person who holds a particular position or status in the society (Macionis,1997). An individual who holds a particular status in the society performs a certain role. For example, if you hold a status of  a pastor in the society, you are expected to be an incharge of the church and perform the duties of the church. The statuses and roles vary from culture to culture. A same role can have different names or different roles can have the same name in different societies. For example, in America uncle is the brother of either mother or father while in India, any aged person is called an uncle.
An individual holds many types of statuses at the same time, in a society. So in everyday life we are performing multiple roles or having status set (Macionis,1997). A lady can be a teacher, a wife and a mother at the same time. A role set is a term ,coined by Robert K. Merton in 1957, that is used to recognize the different roles that are fastened  to the single status. In everyday life, each of us occupies a role set. For example, I am a student ( Student Role) , I attend classes, make assignments and give exams. In addition to this I am also a son ( son role ) so my parents expect me to give them respect and take care of them. I also work part time (employer role), so I am responsible for performing the functions and fulfil the duties of my office. As a member of the society, I am also responsible for performing civic duties ( civil role). All these roles when combined forms a role set.
The perspective of the role set differs from society to society on a global scale. In different countries different roles are important for the social identity. In case of low income countries such as Pakistan, India, Vietnam, etc. family roles dominate the other roles due to lack of resources and insufficient opportunities to study. In low income countries, men are considered the primary bread winners of the house and women are typically considered to take the responsibility of the household. So the men are considered to play a dominant role as compared to women. The men and women have to take up the pre-defined role sets. If we take a look at societies in high income countries, family roles are less important for the social identity. The people have enough resources to study and build-up their careers. Therefore, their other roles dominate the family role. Men and women are considered equal in their social roles and they both are given equal opportunities in the society. There are no pre-defined role sets for men and women. For example, a lady  can be a mother, a wife and a manager of the company as well. Similarly a man can be a husband , a father and a manager of the company. The more roles one plays in the society the larger will be the role set.
In a nutshell, all of us play multiple roles in the society. The difference in roles differs from society to society. An individual can play multiple roles at the same time. This set of different roles is referred to as role set. The role capacity of the individual differs globally. The more roles an individual takes up, the larger is the rule set. The role set plays an important part in defining the different roles of the individual in the society.

Macionis,J. (1997). Sociology, 6/E . Prentice Hall.
Merton,R.K. (1996). On Social Structure and Science. The University of Chicago Press.


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