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Recent Development in Role Theory

B. J. Biddle
Annual Review of Sociology
Vol. 12 (1986), pp. 67-92
Published by: Annual Reviews
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2083195
Page Count: 26
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Recent Development in Role Theory
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Abstract

Role theory concerns one of the most important features of social life, characteristic behavior patterns or roles. It explains roles by presuming that persons are members of social positions and hold expectations for their own behaviors and those of other persons. Its vocabulary and concerns are popular among social scientists and practitioners, and role concepts have generated a lot of research. At least five perspectives may be discriminated in recent work within the field: functional, symbolic interactionist, structural, organizational, and cognitive role theory. Much of role research reflects practical concerns and derived concepts, and research on four such concepts is reviewed: consensus, conformity, role conflict, and role taking. Recent developments suggest both centrifugal and integrative forces within the role field. The former reflect differing perspectival commitments of scholars, confusions and disagreements over use of role concepts, and the fact that role theory is used to analyze various forms of social system. The latter reflect the shared, basic concerns of the field and efforts by role theorists to seek a broad version of the field that will accommodate a wide range of interests.

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