Social Structure : What is role in Social Structure

Social structure is the term that is given to all of the interconnected relationships of the various social groups and institutions in which people create and become part of.

Social Structure : What is role in Social Structure

Social Structure

Social structure is the organized set of social institutions and patterns of institutionalized relationships that together compose society. Social structure is both a product of social interaction and directly determines it. Social structures are not immediately visible to the untrained observer; however, they are always present and affect all dimensions of human experience in society.

Social Structure Definition

According to Radcliff-Brown social structure is a part of the social structure of all social relations of person to person. In the study of social structure, the concrete reality with which we are concerned is the set of actually existing relations at a given moment of time that link together certain human beings.

A more general definition of social structure is that social structure refers to the enduring orderly and patterned relationships between the elements of a society. 

According to S.F Nadal structure refers to a definable articulation and ordered arrangement of parts. 

According to Ginsberg the study of social structure is concerned with the principal form of social organization that is types of groups, associations and institutions and the complex of these that constitute societies.

According to Talcott Parsons, the term social structure applies to the particular arrangement of the interrelated institutions, agencies and social patterns as well as the statuses and roles which each person assumes in the group. 

Types of Social Structure

Talcott Parsons has described 4 principal types of social structure. His classification is based on four social values.

Universalistic social values

Universalistic social values are those which are found almost in every society and are applicable to everybody. This is the combination of the value patterns which sometimes opposed to the values of a social structure built mostly around kinship, community, class and race

Particularistic social values

Particularistic social values are the features of particular societies and these differ from society to society. 

Achieved social values 

When the statuses are achieved on the basis of efforts it means that such societies attach importance to achieved social values. 

Ascribed social values

When the statuses are hereditary even the society gives importance to ascribed social statuses.



There are four elements of social Structure:

1.     Norms

2.     Values

3.     Status

4.     Role



A role is the expected behavior associated with a specific social status. Role has an aspect of action which is nothing but a cluster of inter –related structures around specific rights and duties and duties and associated with a particular status position within a group of social situations. A persons’ role in any situation is defined by the set of expectations for his behavior held by others and by the persons himself. 

Ø  Role is the social action or behavior of the individual in a particular status.

Ø  Role is a manner in which the position of a status is supposed to be filled.

Ø  Role is the way of behavior or a social action which fits to a given status.

Ø  All social activities and action are organized around role.

Ø  Role is the set of privileges and expectation both of one’s own behavior and the behavior of others.

Definition of Role

Davis, Kingsley: “Role is the manner in which a person actually carried out the requirements of his position”

Ogburn and Nimkoff : “Role is a set of socially expected and approved behavior patterns consisting of both duties and privileges, associated with a particular position in a group”.

Elliot and Merrill:”Role is the parte he plays as a result of each status.”

Fitcher,J.H. : “ When a number of inter-related behavior patterns are clustered around a social functions , we call this combination a social role.”

Different concept related to role

Role Conflict


EXPECTATIONS: Playing roles is not always easy for us. Role bring problems. They are meant to make interaction easier by helping us know what to do. But in the real world we often don't know what to do because if we act according to one set of expectations we fail to meet another set that is important to us. We are faced with role conflict. There are several kinds of role conflict.

Ø  One Person Has Contradictory Expectations of Another (Intrasender Conflict): Sometimes a person (or persons) expects us to do contradictory things in our role. ("My parents say they expect me to be independent, but they treat me like a child.") Katz and Kahn (1966) call this kind of role conflict instrasender conflict..

Ø  E.g students expect instructors to be personal, to show interest in them, to treat them as individuals, yet instructors must also grade everyone impersonally—otherwise they are charged with having "favorites. 

Role conflict is a tension that occurs when a person is facing multiple roles having multiple statuses. It means that it occurs between two or more than two roles. For example RANA as a son visit his mother in hospital, he also wishes to go at his close-friend's marriage ceremony, same time he also confuses to join his lecture in B.Z University Multan or to go office for emergency task. While role strain is a tension that occurs when a person is facing a single role having multiple statuses. It means that it occurs within a single role. For example a domestic mother is preparing breakfast for her kids and same time she wishes to press school uniform. This situation leads her toward role strain.



Role set 

A role set is anyone you have a recurring relationship with in your role. According to Goffman the "role set" is the various kinds of relevant audiences for a particular role. Merton describes "role set" as the "complement of social relationships in which persons are involved because they occupy a particular social status." For instance, the role of a doctor has a role set comprising colleagues, nurses, patients, hospital administrators, etc.

Role Strain

Role strain occurs when a person has difficulty meeting the responsibilities of a particular role in his or her life. If you're reading this right now at a time when you are having trouble keeping up with the expectations on you as a student, learning all you need to learn, keeping on top of the work involved, this means you are experiencing strain on your role as a student.

A role is the term used by sociologists, and often in society in general, to describe a set of expected behaviours and obligations a person has based on their particular place in the world. We all have multiple roles and responsibilities in our lives.

Examples of Role Strain

Imagine you are an actor on a stage and everyone is watching as you play out your lines and follow the stage directions for your part. Sociologist Erving Goffman suggested that there is a parallel between the way an actor plays on a stage and how we play our part in the world based on the roles we have. We present ourselves in different ways to different people. These patterns of actions and behaviours are known as role performance.

Role exit (social role exit)

When an individual stops engaging in a role previously central to their identity and the process of establishing a new identity.

Example: When an individual retires from a long career and must transition from the role of worker with deadlines and responsibilities to a leisurely life or when an individual becomes a parent and has to change their lifestyle.







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