Social Roles (A complete guide)

This article will give a brief idea of “Social Roles”, social norms and key features of social roles.


Social roles are the roles or a part that people play in a social group.

With each role, one adopts, his behavior changes and fits in the expectation of both the parties and each role has an expected behavior which is known as norms.

A role is said to be a set of connected behaviors, rights, obligations, beliefs, and norms as identified by people. 

It gives an individual social status or social position. There are many ways people can play their roles and influence behaviors.

Expecting people to behave randomly seems stupid but expecting to behave in a certain way in particular situations is what people do.

Every social situation has its own expectations and way of behaving in a “proper” way and it can vary from group to group.

People get to know the expectations of society when they look at others play a role in society as an audience. 


  • The interaction among the people which is actually known as the division of labor in society is known as roles.
  • Social roles are guided by the social norms which allow people to behave in an appropriate and permitted way in a group, it further explains the place of a person in the society.
  • All the people in this world are actors in some kind as everyone plays a role to please others because we need people to stay sane and our behavior makes sure if we will be sticking around other people or not
  • When certain people approve a social role then they conform to the social norms which have been predecided and will do anything to stick to those norms and even would punish others who violate this rule.
  • Change is inevitable and therefore changed conditions can render a social role outdated due to which social pressures are likely to lead to role change.
  • Performing social roles comes with its own rewards and punishments, as well as the satisfaction of behaving withing social norms and prosocially.


Social norms are known as the rules about how to behave.

Nobody has written these rules and one learns it with his own experience and observation.

Every culture has it’s own social norms and within a culture even, different groups have their own social norms.

These norms provide the expectations of certain group members to behave in a certain way within the group or culture.

Social norms are the accepted standards of behavior of social groups.

This idea of norms provide a key to understanding societal demands, the influence in general and the cost of keeping up with those expectations.

These social groups can be ranged from cultural groups, religious groups, friends, family, workgroups, travel groups, etc.

All of which have their own set of expectations to behave in a certain way required within the ceratin social norms according to the groups, it is called conformity.

And most of the time the roles and norms are powerful ways of understanding and predicting how the other person of the group would do.

As the individual moves from one group to another, his behavior changes automatically and accordingly.

For example, a person would behave differently in a family group and would behave differently in a friend group and would behave totally differently in the workgroup, it keeps on changing and all of it is involuntary.

These social norms provide order and discipline in the society.

Therefore, it is almost difficult to see how people will be able to operate the society without these norms.

These norms are important to guide and direct people in how to behave and it provides order and predictability in social relationships and in understanding each other’s actions.

These are the reasons why some people stick to social norms most of the time.

Role Set:

As we have learned so far, different people play different roles in different social groups, sometimes they have to play more than one role in a single group, this is called as role set in sociology.

Let’s take a politician, for example, he is supposed to lead a group of people, provide necessary things to the people, fulfill his promises which he has made during elections and try and connect people in trying to make peace and harmony among them.

Role Conflict:

As we know an individual plays different roles in different social groups and when these roles come in conflict with one another, it is known as role conflict.

This usually happens when the personal and professional roles are mixed.

For example, a person in his company hires his best friend to help him out for his livelihood, but somehow because of his lack of skills faces tremendous losses.

Now his business role norms ask him to fire him for the betterment of the business but his friendship role norms state otherwise.

Role Strain:

When an individual is excessively stressed and strained from different roles which are overlapping with each other, it is known as role strain.

For example, a student who is also a bread earner for his family has two different very important roles but at the same time overlapping with each other creates stress in his life.

He is supposed to study hard to get a better and secured job in future, or even if he just likes studying (working on self is as important as any other thing), on the other hand, he is supposed to earn for his family and therefore does part-time shifts for the same.

Both these roles are important but creating extra strain because of overlapping with each other’s norms.

Role Exit:

Each individual has his own desires and he works accordingly to achieve a certain social status within a society.

In order to achieve a particular status the individual might work hard and follow all the social norms to achieve his target but ob=nce achieving it, he might not like it at all and wants to quit it, this is called Role exit.

Now the individual might have a new set of ambitions and desires which he wants to achieve and in order to achieve it, he might have to leave his old roles for the same and might have to adopt new roles to achieve his new target. 


  • Roles are properties:

It is considered that the roles can be ‘predicted’ of different entities, in other words, different entities can play the same role.

And we shall achieve the desired result by introducing a specific relation between roles and their players.

Which by technical speaking, people can think of roles as properties.

  • Roles are anti-rigid and have dynamic properties:

As we know that an individual can play different roles simultaneously, he can change roles, he can play the same role several times, simultaneously, a single role can be played by different entities, simultaneously or at different times, all these things surely make the point that roles are anti-rigid and have ‘dynamic’ properties.

  • Roles have a relational nature:

So far we have learned that each role brings a certain relationship with the group and therefore, it’s true that roles imply patterns of relationships and roles depend on these patterns.

It concludes that roles have a relational nature.


This article has given a brief idea of “Social Roles”, social norms and key features of social roles.

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Social roles and their descriptions pdf

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