Role Theory

3338 words 14 pages
Understanding Intimate Partner Violence through Role Theory:
A Concept Paper

Introducing Role Theory

Role theory is a sociological framework that has been used to explain sets of relational patterns between people across varying contexts. It seeks to explain one of the most important characteristics of human social behavior – the fact that how people act, behave and speak are not separate, unique, disconnected but rather, are reflective of certain patterns and arrangements that depend on the social context and the actors in these contexts (Mangus, 1957; Biddle, 1986). To illustrate, within the context of an intimate relationship such as marriage, violence between partners can be tied to the particular patterns and arrangements of
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Roles may also be highly abstract or they may be concrete (Mangus, 1957). Abstract roles emerge from social systems of statuses and are expressed as generalized moral standards (Mangus, 1957). Examples of abstract roles are evident in universal expectations of honesty and justice. Status roles include rights and duties that emanate from a given position or office (Mangus, 1957). Illustrations of status roles can be seen in the entitlements and obligations that are given to persons of authority, such as managers, leaders or decision-makers. Turner (2001) also identified four broad types of roles: (1) basic roles, (2) position or status roles, (3) functional group roles, and (4) value roles. Basic roles refer to roles that are associated with gender, age and social class (Banton, 1965 as cited in Turner, 2001). These are considered basic roles because they apply to a wide range of situations and because they tend to alter the meaning and taking up of other types of roles. The second type of roles, position or status roles, correspond to positions in organizations or formally organized groups (Turner, 2001). Occupational and family roles may be regarded as examples of position or status roles. Functional group roles are the informal behavior patterns that arise spontaneously as persons take on situational identities during social interactions (Benne & Sheats, 1948 as cited in Turner, 2001). Examples of functional group


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