Brief notes on role conflict and role set in relation to sociology


Individuals differ not only differ in their sex, color, height, age etc. but also differ in respect of their occupation. They perform different functions. Some are professors, others are physicians, some are laborers, others are scientists, soldiers etc. An individual cannot perform all the jobs nor can all the individuals be given the same job. Members of society occupy different places and discharge different responsibilities in the mutual interest of all. Acceding to place individuals get status. Each status has a set of expected behaviors called ‘roles’,

Lundberg says “A social role is a pattern of behavior expected of an individual in a certain group or situation.

Duncan Mitchell writes, “A social role is the expected behavior associated with a social position.


Ogbum and Nimkoff say, “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”.

Just as the successful enactment of a drama depends upon how successfully the different actors play their roles, similarly the smooth running of social life depends upon how efficiently and consistently each member of different groups perform his or her role in the social system.

Nature of Role:

1. Every individual is bound to play social roles. Therefore, role-playing is obligatory for all members. The number of roles that one plays depends on the statuses that he assumes.


2. Some social roles are shared by a great many people.

3. Some social roles are enacted only by one or by comparatively a few individuals at a particular time in a particular place.

4. Some social roles may be assumed voluntarily.

5. The assumption of certain roles is largely involuntary.



Social positions are related. A college professor interacts with his colleagues, with the members of the ministerial and lowers subordinate staff of the college, with President and other members of the governing body of the college, with his students and sometimes with the guardians of his students. As a college professor, he interacts. Sociologists have used the concept of role-set to include persons with whom the professor interacts in his capacity as a college professor. Therefore, the term role-set is used when a particular occupant of a particular position is taken as the point of reference to the total number of occupants of the correlative social positions with whom he must ordinarily interact.


Role conflict refers to the conflict experienced by the individual at the time of role-playing. This may be experienced at two levels.


Firstly, an individual may experience conflict if there is a discrepancy between his perception of his role and his perception of his actual role behavior.

Secondly, an individual may experience conflicts within his own body of roles. An individual may perceive some incompatibility between the role-requirements of two or more roles, when he is playing them together.


Role-behaviour refers to the way in which a certain individual fulfills the expectations of his role. New Comb says that role behavior refers to actual behavior as distinct from the role itself.


Role taking:

Role taking or taking the role of the other, means that a person response by putting himself mentally or imaginatively in the role of the other person in order to regulate his own behavior. This he does only in view of other’s expectations and not necessarily in the direction of conformity. Role taking is significant in the process of socialization, which is in the learning of social roles.

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