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A Theory of Role Strain

William J. Goode
American Sociological Review
Vol. 25, No. 4 (Aug., 1960), pp. 483-496
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2092933
Page Count: 14
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A Theory of Role Strain
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Abstract

When social structures are viewed as made up of roles, social stability is not explicable as a function of (a) the normative consensual commitment of individuals or (b) normative integration. Instead, dissensus and role strain--the difficulty of fulfilling role demands--are normal. In a sequence of role bargains, the individual's choices are shaped by mechanisms, outlined here, through which he organizes his total role system and performs well or ill in any role relationship. Reduction of role strain is allocative or economic in form, but the economic model is different. "Third parties" interact with an individual and his alter, to keep their bargain within institutionalized limits. The larger social structure is held in place by role strains. The cumulative pattern of all such role bargains determines the flow of performances to all institutions. The research utility of this conception is explained.

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