Sociology Role Theory
by
Mariska van der Horst
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 July 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0175

Introduction

Concepts of role theory can be traced back to before 1900, although the use of the term “role” only became common in the 1930s (for more on the origin of role theory see Biddle and Thomas 1966, cited under General Overviews). The basic idea is that individuals have various roles in life and that these roles come with prescriptions on how individuals should behave. Banton 1996 defines a role as “the expected behaviour associated with a social position” (p. 749, cited under General Overviews). A social position (also referred to as a “social status”) is defined by Merton 1957 as “a position in a social system involving designated rights and obligations” (p. 110, cited under Additional General Terminology). Although this basic concept has mostly remained the same over different studies throughout the years (with some exceptions), role theory has developed over time, and many studies have been written in response to weaknesses in earlier descriptions. For example, the theory of role accumulation was developed in response to the focus of the theory of role strain on the negative sides of participating in multiple roles (both described in Multiple Roles). Also, the term “role” is sometimes broadened to also include social status and to include exhibited behavior in addition to expected behavior (George 1993, cited under Critics). As such, one cannot speak of one role theory but only of a collection of role theories. Role theory has inspired, and continues to inspire, much research.

General Overviews

There exist several texts on what role theory is and how it developed over time. Probably the first book that tried to combine various independent texts into one coherent piece on the basics of role theory is Biddle and Thomas 1966. Biddle 1986 gives an excellent overview on how the field has developed in various directions and how different theorists and researchers view core concepts of role theory. Turner 2001 provides a more modern account of what role theory is and how it is developing. Good short introductions also include encyclopedia entries in the International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family 2003 and the International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences 2008. How the word “role” is used in social science research can be found in Banton 1996.

  • Banton, Michael. 1996. Role. In The social science encyclopedia. 2d ed. Edited by Adam Kuper and Jessica Kuper, 749–751. London and New York: Routledge Taylor and Francis.

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    This entry in the encyclopedia describes the use of the word “role” in social science research. It is a clear but rather broad description.

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    • Biddle, Bruce J. 1986. Recent development in role theory. Annual Review of Sociology 12:67–92.

      DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.12.080186.000435Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      This paper describes the difficulties that role theory was having and how multiple perspectives on role theory have emerged. It includes key concepts of role theory that seem to encompass these different perspectives. It also features several critics on role theory, the different perspectives in role theory, and various key concepts. Hence, this paper is an excellent way of understanding how various conceptualizations of role theory relate to one another.

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      • Biddle, Bruce J., and Edwin J. Thomas, eds. 1966. Role theory: Concepts and research. New York: John Wiley.

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        This book starts with four chapters trying to combine the then-current knowledge of role theory in an overview of basic concepts and knowledge. The following forty-seven chapters are selected papers on role theory that give insight into the breadth and depth of studies on role theory. Also contains a bibliography of about 250 references that contributed to role theory.

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        • Role Theory. 2003. In International Encyclopedia of Marriage and Family.

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          This entry shortly describes the structural and interactionist approach to role theory as well as accumulating and changing roles. It applies the theory mainly to the mother role. Good short introduction to role theory with a specific application.

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          • Role Theory. 2008. In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences.

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            This entry provides a short historical overview of role theory, describing the structural and interactionist schools of thought as well as how these were integrated after the 1980s.

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            • Turner, Jonathan H., ed. 2001. Handbook of sociological theory. New York: Springer Science+Business Media.

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              This book contains a couple of chapters that discuss role theory. Where Sheldon Stryker in Chapter 11 mostly discusses structural role theory and its relation to traditional and structural symbolic interactionism, Ralph Turner looks in the next chapter more at interactional role theory. This handbook has a special focus on then-current developments in theory.

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              Origins

              For an overview of predecessors of role theory, see Biddle and Thomas 1966 (cited under General Overviews). They point, however, to three main theorists that contributed probably more than any other to the creation of role theory. First, Mead 1972 is a main source. He is considered one of the principal founders of symbolic interactionism. For an account of this theoretical perspective, see Fine and Sandstrom 2011, for symbolic interactionism in combination with sociological social psychology see Bianchi 2012, and for more on the work of Mead see Carreira da Silva 2013. Second, role theory is often explained in terms of performances of roles in a theater. Elucidating the performance of roles, Moreno 2013 distinguishes role taking from role playing. In role taking, the role is established and there is no freedom for the individual in how the role is performed. When playing a role, however, there is freedom for the individual to interpret the role. This perspective is clearly distinct from Mead’s, which was criticized in Moreno 1960. Goffman 1959 is another example of the linking to theatrical performance and the dramaturgical metaphor. Third, Linton 1936 distinguishes status from role. A role is perceived by Linton as the dynamic aspect of a status.

              • Bianchi, Alison. 2012. Social psychology. In Oxford Bibliographies Online. Edited by Janeen Baxter. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                Gives information about sociological social psychology. Role theory is related to several of the works of social psychologists. This source is good for seeing its relation to social psychology more generally.

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                • Carreira da Silva, Filipe. 2013. G.H. Mead. In Oxford Bibliographies Online. Edited by Janeen Baxter. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                  Provides an overview of the work of Mead as well as the relationship between Mead and symbolic interactionism.

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                  • Fine, Gary, and Kent Sandstrom. 2011. Symbolic interactionism. In Oxford Bibliographies Online. Edited by Janeen Baxter. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                    Good starting point for readers interested in symbolic interactionism.

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                    • Goffman, Erving. 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. London: Penguin.

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                      Goffman comes from the perspective of theoretical performance and dramaturgy. Explains in detail how individuals and teams play out roles in various settings. Examples come from various fields where role theory is still prominent such as in gender roles and business roles.

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                      • Linton, Ralph. 1936. The study of man. New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts.

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                        Linton distinguishes statuses (which are described as a “collection of rights and duties” p. 113), from roles (putting the rights and duties into effect) but emphasizes the close relationship between the two. People have multiple statuses and roles. The book also distinguishes “ascribed” from “achieved” statuses. Considered a classic on roles in society.

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                        • Mead, George H. 1972. Mind, self, and society. From the standpoint of a social behaviourist. Edited and with introduction by Charles W. Morris. Chicago and London: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                          This book is seen as one of the foundations of symbolic interactionism and role theory. It is written in large part based on notes of students, together with notes and unpublished manuscripts of Mead. The book already describes taking a role and the importance of the generalized other. Originally published in 1934.

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                          • Moreno, Jacob L. 1960. The sociometry reader. Glencoe, IL: Free Press of Glencoe.

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                            Contains a chapter on role but references to role theory recur at several places in the book. Moreno makes the important distinction between role taking, role playing, and role creating. It also distinguishes three types of roles: psychosomatic roles, psychodramatic roles, and social roles. This book is more explicit on role theory.

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                            • Moreno, Jacob L. 2013. Who shall survive? A new approach to the problem of human interrelations. New Delhi: Isha.

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                              Seen as one of the first books on role theory. Although it already discusses roles and perceives role taking differently from Mead, this is done far less explicitly than in Moreno’s 1960 book, also discussed in this section. Originally published in 1934.

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                              Additional General Terminology

                              Role theory is not one theory, and it has developed over time with different researchers focusing on different parts and developing new concepts. For example, Turner 1956 focuses on the concept of role taking and describes various forms of this concept. Another important concept Turner 1978 developed is role merger. Merton 1957 developed the concept of a “role-set,” which points to the important fact that different people can have different expectations on how someone in a certain social position should behave.

                              • Merton, Robert K. 1957. The role-set: Problems in sociological theory. British Journal of Sociology 8.2: 106–120.

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                                Merton brings the insight that social statuses do not come with a single role but with multiple roles attached to it. Social statuses are structurally related to one another, and occupants of different social statuses may have different expectations on how someone should enact the role of one particular social status. This, in turn, is considered a potential source of conflict. The paper discusses several ways in which role-sets are likely to not lead to conflict.

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                                • Turner, Ralph H. 1956. Role-taking, role standpoint, and reference-group behaviour. American Journal of Sociology 61.4: 316–328.

                                  DOI: 10.1086/221763Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  This theoretical article looks at various types of role taking, developing this part of role theory. Turner also describes why it is important to distinguish these various types and how they relate to concepts of empathy and reference-group behavior.

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                                  • Turner, Ralph H. 1978. The role and the person. American Journal of Sociology 84.1: 1–23.

                                    DOI: 10.1086/226738Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    This is also a theoretical article that in several steps looks at the distinction between person and role, when the two merge, and what determines the merger. Thus it deals with the distinction between playing a role and becoming that role. Turner describes how this can lead to problems when merging with one role may affect participating in other roles and how role merging relates to personality formation.

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                                    Beyond Interactionalism versus Structuralism

                                    Two different schools of thought are commonly referred to when discussing role theory. The structuralist view takes the context as the starting point and roles are seen as influencing the behavior of individuals. Prominent names in this school of thought are Linton 1936 (cited under Origins), Parsons and Shils 2008, and Stryker, see for example the chapter of Stryker in Jonathan Turner (cited under General Overviews). The interactionalist view sees roles as adapted and acted out through interaction between individuals. Important names in this school of thought are Goffman 1959 (discussed in Origins) and Ralph Turner (see for example the chapter of Ralph Turner in Jonathan Turner cited under General Overviews). Since the 1980s, there has been a call to combine the two perspectives, acknowledging that the society contains structures that influence individuals but that individuals also have degrees of freedom in how they act out their role and that roles are developed through interactions. Some important readings in this respect include Callero 1994, Hilbert 1981, and Stryker 2002.

                                    • Callero, Peter L. 1994. From role-playing to role-using: Understanding role as resource. Social Psychology Quarterly 57.3: 228–243.

                                      DOI: 10.2307/2786878Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      In this paper, Callero proposes an alternative to more traditional role theory by viewing a role not as behavioral expectations that come with a certain position in society but as a cultural object that can be used as a resource to attain such a position. Although researchers have cited this work, it has not replaced more traditional role theory perspectives.

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                                      • Hilbert, Richard A. 1981. Toward an improved understanding of “role”. Theory and Society 10.2: 207–226.

                                        DOI: 10.1007/BF00139892Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This article shortly but clearly describes the functionalist and interactionalist understanding of role theory and explains how they are less dissimilar than often assumed. Also describes an alternative conceptualization of roles.

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                                        • Parsons, Talcott, and Edward A. Shils. 2008. The social system. In Toward a general theory of action: Theoretical foundations for the social sciences. Edited by Talcott Parsons and Edward A. Shils, 190–233. London: Transaction.

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                                          In this chapter, Parsons and Shils describe social organization. They describe the conceptual unit of this to be the role. It is considered a standard work in the structural variant of role theory. Originally published in 1951.

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                                          • Stryker, Sheldon. 2002. Symbolic interactionism: A social structural version. Caldwell, NJ: Blackburn.

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                                            Stryker explains his version of symbolic interactionism. He combines symbolic interactionism with concepts of role theory to deal with the interaction between person and structure. Originally published in 1980.

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                                            Critics

                                            There is not one version of role theory and critics may be more or less applicable to various types of role theory. George 1993 describes three important critics on role theory. First, the theory seems to be broad and general, making it difficult to falsify. Second, the role of time is insufficiently taken into account. Third, heterogeneity is not considered enough (see Granovetter 1985 for a similar argument). Callero 1994 (cited under Beyond Interactionalism versus Structuralism), and McCall and Simmons 1978 criticize the more structural types of role theory for not taking agency into proper account. The more structural version of role theory is also criticized, for example, by Callero 1994 (discussed in Beyond Interactionalism versus Structuralism) and Gerhardt 1980, for not being able to explain dynamics of power or how the structural context came into existence. Further, it has been claimed—for example, by West and Zimmerman 1987—that role theory is ahistorical as well as depoliticizing and that it puts too much emphasis on stable, continuing roles over which exist consensus. There are also more specific critiques on what should be seen as a role. In Lopata and Thorne 1978 and West and Zimmerman 1987, one can find arguments against seeing “gender” as a role; it is qualitatively different from other roles, such as “parent,” “doctor,” or “student,” and it ignores questions on inequality or power. Seeing gender as a role makes it more difficult to see how gender affects performance in other roles. Similar arguments can be made for other demographic categories such as age or ethnicity. Komarovsky 1992 provides arguments against many of these criticisms.

                                            • George, Linda K. 1993. Sociological perspectives on life transitions. Annual Review of Sociology 19:353–373.

                                              DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.19.080193.002033Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              Describes role theory as one of the foundations of life transition research. George looks at role theory, social stress theory, and life-course sociology to come to the recommendation that all three perspectives should be combined.

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                                              • Gerhardt, Uta. 1980. Towards a critical analysis of role. Social Problems 27.5: 556–569.

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                                                This article uses the Frankfurt School as background and takes a critical perspective on role. Rather than denouncing the concept of “role” altogether, this article assesses how it can be used in the critical theory approach and sets this against other usages of “role.”

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                                                • Granovetter, Mark. 1985. Economic action and social structure: The problem of embeddedness. American Journal of Sociology 91.3: 481–510.

                                                  DOI: 10.1086/228311Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  Describes the problems of oversocialized and undersocialized conceptions of human action. Granovetter criticizes role theory in relation to oversocialization and claims that it does not put enough emphasis on the individual content of the role that actors perform. He argues instead for seeing individual actors embedded in social relations in order to avoid both over- and under-socialized concepts of human action.

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                                                  • Komarovsky, Mirra. 1992. The concept of social role revisited. Gender and Society 6.2: 301–313.

                                                    DOI: 10.1177/089124392006002010Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Describes various arguments against criticisms to the use of gender roles. Although focusing on gender roles, the arguments mentioned here are broader than gender roles alone. Discusses how role theory can be used in sociological research.

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                                                    • Lopata, Helena Z., and Barrie Thorne. 1978. On the term “sex roles”. Signs 3.3: 718–721.

                                                      DOI: 10.1086/493523Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      This short entry describes several problems with the term sex (or gender) roles.

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                                                      • McCall, George J., and Jerry L. Simmons. 1978. Identities and Interactions: An Examination of Human Associations in Everyday Life. Revised Edition. New York: Free Press.

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                                                        McCall and Simmons describe their theoretical approach. Although they also use the term “role,” they clearly distinguish this from role theory. They disagree with role theory, which according to them states that roles are clearly defined and claim that roles must be improvised rather than performed.

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                                                        • West, Candace, and Don H. Zimmerman. 1987. Doing gender. Gender and Society 1.2: 125–151.

                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0891243287001002002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          A now-classic paper. It questions the usefulness of perceiving gender as a role and instead claims that gender is something that individuals “do” through interaction.

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                                                          Multiple Roles

                                                          Individuals do not just perform one role in their lives: in light on this statement, several theories and empirical studies have been published on the combination of roles. Thoits 1983 relates roles to social identities and psychological well-being. As Thoits 1983 explains in the identity accumulation hypothesis, “If one knows who one is (in a social sense), then one knows how to behave” (p. 175). She describes on the same page that the “greater the number of identities held, the stronger one’s sense of meaningful, guided existence” (p. 175), which is important for psychological well-being. There is discussion in the literature about whether participating in multiple roles is positive or negative for psychological well-being. First, there is the theory of role strain, explained in Goode 1960, which focuses on difficulties to meet role demands. Sieber 1974 describes two main sources of why participating in multiple roles can lead to role strain: role overload as a consequence of time restrictions and role conflict because of different expectations that are related to different roles. That multiple roles should lead to role strain has long been contested, however. As a response to the focus on the negative side of having multiple roles, Sieber 1974 argues that before we can discuss the ways to relieve role strain, we should first establish that participating in multiple roles indeed leads to more negative than positive feelings. Many different terms have been used in research to refer to the positive or negative side of combining multiple roles. For an overview see Staines 1980. It now seems agreed among researchers that participating in multiple roles can both lead to conflict and to enhancement, although overall enhancement seems to outweigh conflict. Several theories have been developed to explain under which conditions multiple roles lead to positive or negative outcomes. For example, Marks 1977 points toward commitment. Marks and MacDermid 1996 later develops this in a theory of role balance. Although in general, Barnett and Hyde 2001 believes that participating in multiple roles would be positive for well-being, there are a number of processes that they describe that facilitate (or hinder) this. Also, they suggest that there is a limit in the number of roles and time demands an individual can handle. This contrasts with Thoits 1983, which claims that the more roles individuals fulfil, the better for psychological well-being. Results are somewhat mixed on role conflict and role enhancement. There are several reasons for this. Looking at one specific type of role conflict, namely the conflict between the work and family roles, Kossek and Ozeki 1998 points toward differences in measurements and samples as explanation for such mixed results.

                                                          • Barnett, Rosalind C., and Janet S. Hyde. 2001. Women, men, work, and family: An expansionist theory. American Psychologist 56.10: 781–796.

                                                            DOI: 10.1037/0003-066X.56.10.781Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            Critiques traditional gender theories. The paper’s goal is to provide a new theory that would better fit the 21st century. The theory is based on four principles: (1) participating in multiple roles is generally positive for well-being, (2) there are several processes that contribute to this positive effect, (3) there are certain conditions under which this positive effect will occur, and (4) psychological gender differences are small and mutable.

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                                                            • Goode, William J. 1960. A theory of role strain. American Sociological Review 25.4: 483–496.

                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2092933Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Emphasizes role conflict that results from participating in multiple roles. Written in response to what Goode called the “Lintonian model” (p. 484) to deal with limitations of this model. The paper describes various types of role strain as well as two sets of mechanisms individuals can use to reduce role strain.

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                                                              • Kossek, Ellen E., and Cynthia Ozeki. 1998. Work-family conflict, policies, and the job-life satisfaction relationship: A review and directions for organizational behavior-human resources research. Journal of Applied Psychology 83.2: 139–149.

                                                                DOI: 10.1037/0021-9010.83.2.139Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Presents a meta-analysis of published studies on work-family conflict to assess mixed findings on its relationship with satisfaction. It is often cited and important for its considerations of measurement and attention to differences between subgroups.

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                                                                • Marks, Stephen R. 1977. Multiple roles and role strain: Some notes on human energy, time and commitment. American Sociological Review 42.6: 921–936.

                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/2094577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  Explains the then-dominant scarcity approach of multiple roles and the weaknesses in this approach. Then, Marks explains the expansion approach and combines both approaches. Herewith, it is an important early integration of both points of view.

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                                                                  • Marks, Stephen R., and Shelley M. MacDermid. 1996. Multiple roles and the self: A theory of role balance. Journal of Marriage and Family 58.2: 417–432.

                                                                    DOI: 10.2307/353506Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    Criticizes the assumption of hierarchy in roles as a way to deal with multiple roles and suggests an alternative: namely, role balance. This article sets out the basic ideas of this theory and provides a first test based on two studies.

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                                                                    • Sieber, Sam D. 1974. Toward a theory of role accumulation. American Sociological Review 39.4: 567–578.

                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2094422Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      This paper provides an early critique of the focus on the negative consequences of participating in multiple roles. It describes four possible positive consequences of role accumulation: (1) role privileges, (2) overall status security, (3), resources for status enhancement and role performance, and (4) personality enrichment and ego gratification.

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                                                                      • Staines, Graham L. 1980. Spillover versus compensation: A review of the literature on the relationship between work and nonwork. Human Relations 33.2: 111–129.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/001872678003300203Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        This article is an early review of the literature on the positive versus negative side of combination of work and non-work roles. In general, it finds more support for the positive side. It is an often-cited source for the spillover perspective. Although spillover is meant as positive spillover in this article, several other authors make a distinction between positive and negative spillover.

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                                                                        • Thoits, Peggy A. 1983. Multiple identities and psychological well-being: A reformulation and test of the social isolation hypothesis. American Sociological Review 48.2: 174–187.

                                                                          DOI: 10.2307/2095103Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          Thoits explains the identity accumulation hypothesis, taking a positive view on combining multiple roles. She investigates the importance of integration or segregation of roles and also tests some of her main ideas. Important paper for the way she theoretically describes how roles combine and how this relates to psychological well-being.

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                                                                          Work and Family Roles

                                                                          The work and family roles are often singled out in role domain research. Pleck 1977 is one of the first studies to stress the importance of looking at the work-family role system as a whole. There is research on work-family conflict as well as work-family enrichment. Greenhaus and Powell 2006 stresses the importance of distinguishing between work-to-family conflict/enrichment and family-to-work conflict/enrichment, emphasizing the bi-directionality of these relationships. Mills 2015 provides an overview on what is currently known about the work-family interface from a gender perspective. Greenhaus and Beutell 1985 is an important article that looks at the negative side of the work-family combination and reviewed the empirical knowledge gathered thus far and gives a clear theoretical overview. Twenty years later, Byron 2005 provides a meta-analytical review. Another important review article of work-family conflict is Bellavia and Frone 2005. There is significant variation in terminology used to talk about the broader concept. For example, Frone 2003 uses work-family balance, Kossek and Lambert 2005 discusses work-family integration, and Mills 2015 is about the work-family experience.

                                                                          • Bellavia, Gina M., and Michael R. Frone. 2005. Work-family conflict. In Handbook of work stress. Edited by Julian Barling, E. Kevin Kelloway, and Michael R. Frone. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                            This book chapter reviews literature on work-family conflict. It defines work-family conflict; looks at the prevalence; gives the theoretical background; reviews important empirical studies; identifies predictors, outcomes, and moderators; discusses key measurement issues; provides the future research needs; and gives practical implications.

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                                                                            • Byron, Kristen. 2005. A meta-analytic review of work-family conflict and its antecedents. Journal of Vocational Behavior 67.2: 169–198.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2004.08.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Important overview on the antecedents of work-family conflict, showing that the direction of the conflict matters. Shows that the role of sex is not as simple as often predicted. Links the results back to theory and practice.

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                                                                              • Frone, Michael R. 2003. Work-family balance. In Handbook of occupational health psychology. Edited by James C. Quick and Lois E. Tetrick, 143–162. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

                                                                                DOI: 10.1037/10474-007Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Reviews literature on work-family balance. His conceptualization of work-family balance is often used. The paper emphasizes the need to include both direction (work-to-family and family-to-work) and type (conflict versus facilitation) in research as well as the importance of looking at roles other than family roles next to work.

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                                                                                • Greenhaus, Jeffrey H., and Nicholas J. Beutell. 1985. Sources of conflict between work and family roles. Academy of Management Review 19.1: 76–88.

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                                                                                  Provides a clear overview on what role conflict is and distinguishes three types: (1) time-based conflict, (2) strain-based conflict, and (3) behavior-based conflict. This article remains a good introduction to the study of work-family role conflict.

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                                                                                  • Greenhaus, Jeffrey H., and Gary N. Powell. 2006. When work and family are allies: A theory of work-family enrichment. Academy of Management Review 31.1: 72–92.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2006.19379625Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    To correct the fact that much research on work-family has taken a conflict perspective, this paper comes with a theory of work-family enrichment, which they define as “the extent to which experiences in one role improve the quality of life in another role” (p. 73). Describes previous research and proposes a theoretical model.

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                                                                                    • Kossek, Ellen E., and Susan J. Lambert, eds. 2005. Work and life integration: Organizational, cultural, and individual perspectives. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

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                                                                                      Role theory takes a central position in this book. The focus is on integration of work and family roles. Rather than focusing only on the individual, this study also looks at the organizational and cultural perspective.

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                                                                                      • Mills, Maura J., ed. 2015. Gender and the work-family experience: An intersection of two domains. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.

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                                                                                        Each chapter in this edited volume is grounded in gender-role theory. It provides a good overview on the current state of knowledge, discussing mostly less-researched topics such as the intersection of gender and race, men, and work-family guilt.

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                                                                                        • Pleck, Joseph H. 1977. The work-family role system. Social Problems 24.4: 417–427.

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                                                                                          Seminal paper on the importance of looking at the entire work-family role system, which includes both the male and the female work and family roles. Reviews literature on the different relationships between these roles and gives more structural characteristics of the links between the roles.

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                                                                                          Related Theories

                                                                                          On the positive side of the work-family combination, various theories have been proposed. For example, Greenhaus and Powell 2006 (cited under Work and Family Roles) provides a theory on work-family enrichment, while Wayne, et al. 2007 puts forward a theory on work-family facilitation. Clark 2000 looks at the work/family border theory, and Rothbard 2001 provides a model of work-family engagement. Next to research looking at the actual combination of work and family roles, Peake and Harris 2002 and Weitzman 1994 are examples of research focusing on multiple role planning.

                                                                                          • Clark, Sue C. 2000. Work/family border theory: A new theory of work/family balance. Human Relations 53.6: 747–770.

                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0018726700536001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            This highly cited article sets out the theory that explains when work-family balance is more or less likely to occur. It explains the main concepts and relates them to previous theories. Main concepts include border strength (which is determined by permeability, flexibility, and blending), border-crossers (who differ in influence and role identification), and border-keepers and other domain members.

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                                                                                            • Peake, Amy, and Karen L. Harris. 2002. Young adults’ attitudes toward multiple role planning: The influence of gender, career traditionality, and marriage plans. Journal of Vocational Behavior 60.3: 405–421.

                                                                                              DOI: 10.1006/jvbe.2001.1840Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              Tests Weitzman’s theory on attitudes toward multiple role planning and extends the individual focus of previous research by looking at couples.

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                                                                                              • Rothbard, Nancy P. 2001. Enriching or depleting? The dynamics of engagement in work and family roles. Administrative Science Quarterly 46.4: 655–684.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.2307/3094827Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Rothbard develops a model that explicitly investigates engagement in both work and family roles and tests the model on empirical data.

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                                                                                                • Wayne, Julie H., Joseph G. Grzywacz, Dawn S. Carlson, and K. Michele Kacmar. 2007. Work-family facilitation: A theoretical explanation and model of primary antecedents and consequences. Human Resource Management Review 17.1: 63–76.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1016/j.hrmr.2007.01.002Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  This article steps away from an individualistic approach to system-level functioning. They define work-family facilitation as “the extent to which an individual’s engagement in one life domain (i.e., work/family) provides gains (i.e., developmental, affective, capital, or efficiency) which contribute to enhanced functioning of another life domain (i.e., family/work)” (p. 64).

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                                                                                                  • Weitzman, Lauren M. 1994. Multiple-role realism: A theoretical framework for the process of planning to combine career and family roles. Applied and Preventive Psychology 3.1: 15–25.

                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1016/S0962-1849(05)80105-2Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    Sets out the theory of multiple-role realism. This is defined as “the recognition that multiple-role involvement is a complex and potentially stressful life-style, paired with awareness of the need for careful planning and consideration of the interface between work and family roles” (p. 16). The operationalization of the theoretical framework of multiple-role realism conceptualizes this construct as consisting of three components: Attitudes Toward Multiple-Role Planning, Multiple-Role Knowledge, and Multiple-Role Planning.

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                                                                                                    Sex-Gender Role Theory

                                                                                                    A related but different approach focuses on sex or gender roles (both terms can be found in the literature but are typically used to mean the same thing). Much of this research looks at gender role attitudes. Van der Horst 2014 gives a short introduction to this topic. The term “gender role attitudes” is often used to refer to the perspective that more traditional attitudes see women as homemakers and men as breadwinners while more egalitarian attitudes are associated with a more equal division of tasks. Gender role attitudes can be measured both at the individual and at the group level. These attitudes are associated with actual divisions of tasks between partners. Both cross-sectional and longitudinal studies exist on this topic. Some studies such as Corrigall and Konrad 2007 and Kaufman 2000 look at the direction of the relationship, trying to disentangle whether early attitudes affect later time investments or whether individuals cognitively reinterpret their time investments in their attitudes. Other research on gender role theory looks at roles considered more appropriate for men or women. For example, based on what is perceived more “male” or “female” domains, parents’ traditional gender role stereotypes are found to be related to how well parents think their own daughter or son is performing in that domain (such as mathematics, sports, or English). Eccles, et al. 1990, for example, shows that this is, in turn, related to the child’s actual competence in these domains. Other research, such as in Eagly and Karau 1991, works from the stereotypes of men as more agentic and women as more communal and assumes that men and women take up social roles that fit their gender role. Eagly and Karau 2002 developed a theory on role congruity between gender roles and leadership roles. Spence 1993 discusses how gender roles are related to gender identity and discusses various types of questionnaires. Fischer and Arnold 1994 discusses some of the confusion in terminology between gender identity and gender role attitudes. A specific subfield looks at gender role conflict in men. Research in this subfield assessed whether the gender role socialization of men according to the Western male role is related to negative psychological outcomes. An important study within this is the O’Neil 2008 summary of twenty-five years of research on men’s gender role conflict using the gender role conflict scale.

                                                                                                    • Corrigall, Elizabeth A., and Alison M. Konrad. 2007. Gender role attitudes and careers: A longitudinal study. Sex Roles 56.11/12: 847–855.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1007/s11199-007-9242-0Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      This paper investigates the direction of the relationship between gender role attitudes and time spent on paid work and earnings. Separate analyses are performed for men and women to allow for gender differences.

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                                                                                                      • Eagly, Alice H., and Steven J. Karau. 1991. Gender and the emergence of leaders: A meta-analysis. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 60.5: 685–710.

                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.60.5.685Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        This article is a meta-analysis of the relationship between gender and the emergence of leaders. Most studies assessed are laboratory experiments. The researchers give an overview of gender role theory perspective and use this to explain the association between gender and leadership emergence.

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                                                                                                        • Eagly, Alice H., and Steven J. Karau. 2002. Role congruity theory of prejudice toward female leaders. Psychological Review 109.3: 573–598.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1037/0033-295X.109.3.573Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Eagly and Karau set out their role congruity theory and review existing literature. The article deals with the congruity between gender roles (women more communal, men more agentic) and leadership roles (for which more agentic qualities are assumed to be necessary).

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                                                                                                          • Eccles, Jacquelynne S., Janis E. Jacobs, and Rena D. Harold. 1990. Gender role stereotypes, expectancy effects, and parents’ socialization of gender differences. Journal of Social Issues 46.2: 183–201.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1990.tb01929.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Systematically looks at explanations for the role parents play in the gender stereotypical participation in activities of their children. It contrasts three explanations and looks both at previous studies as well as analyzes new data.

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                                                                                                            • Fischer, Eileen, and Stephen J. Arnold. 1994. Sex, gender identity, gender role attitudes, and consumer behaviour. Psychology and Marketing 11.2: 163–182.

                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1002/mar.4220110206Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              In this article, confusion in terminology between sex, gender identity, and gender role attitudes is discussed. It is also tested whether they are indeed different constructs.

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                                                                                                              • Kaufman, Gayle. 2000. Do gender role attitudes matter? Family formation and dissolution among traditional and egalitarian men and women. Journal of Family Issues 21.1: 128–144.

                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/019251300021001006Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Gayle Kaufman looks at how gender role attitudes matter for family formation and dissolution five years later. It explicitly takes into account that the same attitudes may lead to different results for men and women.

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                                                                                                                • O’Neil, James M. 2008. Summarizing 25 years of research on men’s gender role conflict using the gender role conflict scale: New research paradigms and clinical implications. Counseling Psychologist 36.3: 358–445.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0011000008317057Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Gives a concise summary of 232 empirical studies that used the Gender Role Conflict Scale between the years 1982 and 2007. It reviews the literature organized on several themes and gives advice for further research.

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                                                                                                                  • Spence, Janet T. 1993. Gender-related traits and gender ideology: Evidence for a multifactorial theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 64.4: 624–635.

                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1037/0022-3514.64.4.624Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    The main part of this article focuses on various questionnaires: the Bem Sex-Role Inventory, the Personal Attributes Questionnaire, and three sex role attitudes measures to see how these were related. Also discusses the relationship between gender roles and gender identity and argues for a multifactorial gender identity theory.

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                                                                                                                    • Van der Horst, Mariska. 2014. Gender role attitudes. In Encyclopedia of Quality of Life and Well-Being Research. Edited by Alex C. Michalos, 2451–2453. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer Science+Business Media.

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                                                                                                                      This encyclopedia entry gives a short introduction to gender role attitudes, providing a definition as well as some background.

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                                                                                                                      Role Change and Role Transitions

                                                                                                                      Roles do not remain the same over time. Think, for example, about different roles that children have compared to adults in Western countries. Benedict 1986, for example, discussed continuity and discontinuity in conditioning children for various roles. Theorists differ in how they envision role change. White Riley 1971 takes a mostly functionalist approach, but also stresses the importance of changes in how roles should be enacted. Hakim 2000 instead focuses on sex-role preferences, acknowledging that not everyone prefers to take on the same role. This latter theory is heavily criticized, mostly because it deemphasized the impact of the context by, for example, Crompton and Lyonette 2005 and McRae 2003 and because the adaptability of preferences is not acknowledged by works such as Kan 2007. Ferree 1990 discusses how gender roles are constructed rather than “just” enacted, herewith focusing on a different aspect of role change. Some studies take an explicit life-course perspective. Super 1980, for example, directly links the roles to theaters and discusses how this changes over different life stages. With participating in multiple roles comes the problem of how to move from one role to another (referred to as role transitions).

                                                                                                                      • Benedict, Ruth. 1986. Continuities and discontinuities in cultural conditioning. In Every man his way: Readings in cultural anthropology. Edited by Alan Dundes, 424–433. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

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                                                                                                                        This chapter is a reprint of a classic 1938 paper looking at continuity and discontinuity in cultural conditioning. It places specific attention to differences between various cultures.

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                                                                                                                        • Crompton, Rosemary, and Clare Lyonette. 2005. The new gender essentialism—domestic and family “choices” and their relation to attitudes. British Journal of Sociology 56.4: 601–620.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-4446.2005.00085.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Crompton and Lyonette look at both preference theory and populist conservative feminism. They argue that Hakim should take structural constrains into account more.

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                                                                                                                          • Ferree, Myra Marx. 1990. Beyond separate spheres: Feminism and family research. Journal of Marriage and Family 52.4: 866–884.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.2307/353307Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            This seminal paper criticizes role theory for not being able to take variation within roles into account as well as for ignoring the role of power and conflict. Taking a gender perspective, this paper focuses on the construction of maleness and femaleness. Clearly discusses this perspective against role theory.

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                                                                                                                            • Hakim, Catherine. 2000. Work-lifestyle choices in the 21st century: Preference theory. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                              This book outlines preference theory. The theory inspired much research on the preferences of women (and, to a lesser degree, men). It is important for the role it played in focusing on women’s careers and the role of preferences, but it is highly criticized.

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                                                                                                                              • Kan, Man Yee. 2007. Work orientations and wives’ employment careers: An evaluation of Hakim’s preference theory. Work and Occupations 34.4: 430–462.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1177/0730888407307200Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                This paper empirically investigates some propositions of Hakim’s preference theory. Takes a step away from the gender-role preferences versus constraints debate and argues that both are important.

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                                                                                                                                • McRae, Susan. 2003. Constraints and choices in mothers’ employment careers: A consideration of Hakim’s Preference Theory. British Journal of Sociology 54.3: 317–338.

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                                                                                                                                  This paper tests on longitudinal data some of the premises of Hakim’s Preference Theory. Its main claim is that Preference Theory does not put enough emphasis on the constraints women face.

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                                                                                                                                  • Moreland, John. 1980. Age and change in the adult male sex role. Sex Roles 6.6: 807–818.

                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1007/BF00287236Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Reviews literature looking at stable and transitional states in the gender male role. This literature review points to several early sources on role transitions. Also an interesting paper for looking at how role norms change over time.

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                                                                                                                                    • Super, Donald E. 1980. A life-span, life-space approach to career development. Journal of Vocational Behavior 16.3: 282–298.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1016/0001-8791(80)90056-1Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Super identifies nine major roles that are performed in individuals’ lives that take place in four principal theaters. As he acknowledges himself, however, there are more roles an individual can play and more theatres where these roles can be performed. He discusses the combination of these roles, the change over time in roles, and how this relates to different life stages.

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                                                                                                                                      • White Riley, Matilda. 1971. Social gerontology and the age stratification of society. Gerontologist 1:79–87.

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                                                                                                                                        This article tries to set up a sociology of age stratification. It uses role theory at several places in the article. Talks about different roles depending on age as well as societal changes in how roles should be enacted.

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                                                                                                                                        Theories of Role Transitions

                                                                                                                                        Various theories have been introduced on role transitions. Louis 1980, for example, makes a typology of role transitions and contrasts inter-role transitions from intra-role transitions. Where inter-role transitions refer to changes in objective roles, intra-role transitions refer to subjective reinterpretations of old roles. Nicholson 1984 theorizes about work role transitions and looks at various modes of adjustment. The roles individuals perform keep changing throughout the life course, and socialization for these roles therefore also does not stop after childhood. Mortimer and Simmons 1978 gives an early review on adult socialization. Van Maanen and Schein 1979 instead developed a theory of organizational socialization.

                                                                                                                                        • Louis, Meryl Reis. 1980. Career transitions: Varieties and commonalities. Academy of Management Review 5.3: 329–340.

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                                                                                                                                          This theoretical paper identifies various career transitions (where career explicitly refers to work and non-work roles) and looks at commonalities across the various transitions.

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                                                                                                                                          • Mortimer, Jeylan T., and Roberta G. Simmons. 1978. Adult socialization. Annual Review of Sociology 4:421–454.

                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1146/annurev.so.04.080178.002225Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            This is an often-cited review article on the topic of adult socialization. Directly relates socialization to role change but also discusses the role of socialization in other theories.

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                                                                                                                                            • Nicholson, Nigel. 1984. A theory of work role transitions. Administrative Science Quarterly 29.2: 172–191.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/2393172Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              A much-cited article on work-role transitions. Explicitly looks at prior socialization and motivation, organizational socialization, and role requirements as predictors of adjustments to new roles.

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                                                                                                                                              • Van Maanen, John, and Edgar H. Schein. 1979. Toward a theory of organizational socialization. In Research in Organizational Behavior. Vol. 1. Edited by Barry M. Staw, 209–264. Greenwich, CT: JAI.

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                                                                                                                                                A much-cited article on organizational socialization. Explicitly discusses the role of human agency within this framework and how individuals can bring about organizational change as well as how individuals adapt to roles within an organization. Describes six socialization processes.

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                                                                                                                                                Macro Role Transitions

                                                                                                                                                Stephens 1994 looks at macro transitions—in other words the less frequent major transitions such as becoming a parent or being promoted—and makes a distinction between objective role transitions (such as retiring) and subjective role transitions (such as adapting to the role of retiree). Specific conceptual models, such as the one developed by Burr 1972, have been made about the ease of role transitions. Wang and Shultz 2010 uses the transition into retirement to show how role theory relates to other theories explaining this transition. Ibarra and Barbulescu 2010 proposed a different theory on macro-role transitions. They developed a process model of macro transitions based on both role theory and narrative theory.

                                                                                                                                                • Burr, Wesley R. 1972. Role transitions: A reformulation of theory. Journal of Marriage and Family 34.3: 407–416.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.2307/350436Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  Sets out a theory specific about the ease of role transitions. Drawing strongly on previous work, this article sets 19 propositions for further research to test. It acknowledges that it only looks at one aspect of role transitions (the ease with which a transitions is made) and that there are other aspects research could look at.

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                                                                                                                                                  • Ibarra, Herminia, and Roxana Barbulescu. 2010. Identity as narrative: Prevalence, effectiveness, and consequences of narrative identity work in macro work role transitions. Academy of Management Review 35.1: 135–154.

                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.5465/AMR.2010.45577925Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Ibarra and Barbulescu describe a theory of role transitions that focuses on how self-narratives (can) help individuals move from one role to another. Also discusses the dynamic nature of these narratives. Concentrates on work role transitions.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Stephens, Gregory K. 1994. Crossing internal career boundaries: The state of research on subjective career transitions. Journal of Management 20.2: 479–501.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/014920639402000209Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Explains the distinction between objective and subjective career transitions, reviews literature on subjective career transitions (as this is less commonly researched), and gives directions for further research. This discussion focuses on macro transitions rather than micro transitions.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Wang, Mo, and Kenneth S. Shultz. 2010. Employee retirement: A review and recommendations for future investigation. Journal of Management 36.1: 172–206.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1177/0149206309347957Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        This article reviews literature of the retirement transition. With regard to major role transitions, this is of interest in how it positions role theory against other theories on this transition and different ways role theory can be used in explaining retirement. When reviewing the empirical evidence, they refer back to the theories as well.

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                                                                                                                                                        Micro Role Transitions

                                                                                                                                                        Theories on micro transitions typically look at borders between various roles that individuals occupy simultaneously. Nippert-Eng 1996, for example, theorizes on boundary work using the example of work and family, comparing integrating versus segmenting strategies. Ashforth, et al. 2000 also theorized about micro transitions and the role of integration versus segmentation. Theories on boundary work have also been tested empirically, for example, by Fonner and Stache 2012 on how teleworkers manage work-home transitions. Shumate and Fulk 2004 instead developed the theory of Ashforth, et al. 2000 further by adding a communication perspective. Piszczek and Berg 2014 expand boundary theory by going beyond the individual-level focus that most applications take by including international regulative institutions. Many studies focus on a specific aspect. For example, Fritz, et al. 2010 looks at detachment from the work role, while Rau and Hyland 2002 looks at the attractiveness of flexible working arrangements for people experiencing much work-family conflict. Winkel and Clayton 2010 investigates the theory by assessing role flexibility and role salience.

                                                                                                                                                        • Ashforth, Blake E., Glen E. Kreiner, and Mel Fugate. 2000. All in a day’s work: Boundaries and micro role transitions. Academy of Management Review 25.3: 472–491.

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                                                                                                                                                          An often-cited article on frequent role transitions. The article describes a continuum between segmented and integrated roles. Segmented roles have clear boundaries that are not as easy to combine but do not suffer from blurring of roles. Integrated roles are easy to combine but run the risk of role blurring.

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                                                                                                                                                          • Fonner, Kathryn L., and Lara C. Stache. 2012. All in a day’s work, at home: Teleworkers’ management of micro role transitions and the work-home boundary. New Technology, Work and Employment 27.3: 242–257.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-005X.2012.00290.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            This article empirically looks at some of the Boundary Theory as proposed by Ashforth, et al. 2000. It uses grounded theory to look at how teleworkers deal with work-home role transitions.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Fritz, Charlotte, Maya Yankelevich, Anna Zarubin, and Patricia Barger. 2010. Happy, healthy, and productive: The role of detachment from work during nonwork time. Journal of Applied Psychology 95.5: 977–983.

                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1037/a0019462Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              This paper also investigates integration versus segmentation of work versus non-work roles. It focuses on a more psychological aspect of role transitions, namely psychological detachment from the work role, and investigates how this relates to well-being and job performance.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Nippert-Eng, Christena. 1996. Calendars and keys: The classification of “home” and “work.” Sociological Forum 11.3: 563–582.

                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/BF02408393Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                This paper reports on a qualitative study investigating boundary work. The paper theorizes on boundary work and presents empirical findings. Looks at examples of calendars and keys to investigate how individuals integrate or segregate home and work. Though less specifically related to role theory, it is in many ways similar to Ashforth, et al. 2000 on how roles are combined or segregated.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Piszczek, Matthew M., and Peter Berg. 2014. Expanding the boundaries of boundary theory: Regulative institutions and work-family role management. Human Relations 67.12: 1491–1512.

                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/0018726714524241Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  Criticizes previous research that looks at the boundary between work and family on being too focused on the individual level. It furthers Boundary Theory by explicitly adding international regulative institutions and theorizes on how this affects the existing theory and discusses how existing bodies of literature could benefit from their additions to the theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Rau, Barbara L., and Mary Anne M. Hyland. 2002. Role conflict and flexible work arrangements: The effects on applicant attraction. Personnel Psychology 55.1: 111–136.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-6570.2002.tb00105.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    This empirical article looks at the association between experienced role conflict and attractiveness of flexible working arrangements. It makes distinctions between work-to-family conflict, family-to-work conflict, and work-to-school conflict.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Shumate, Michelle, and Janet Fulk. 2004. Boundaries and role conflict when work and family are collocated: A communication network and symbolic interaction approach. Human Relations 57.1: 55–74.

                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/0018726704042714Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      This article theorizes on how micro-role transitions are related to role conflict of homeworkers and discusses ways to reduce role conflict. Reviews existing literature on this and adds a communication perspective.

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                                                                                                                                                                      • Winkel, Doan E., and Russell W. Clayton 2010. Transitioning between work and family roles as a function of boundary flexibility and role salience. Journal of Vocational Behavior 76.2: 336–434.

                                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1016/j.jvb.2009.10.011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                        This paper empirically tests whether the degree to which an individual is willing and able to be flexible with their work or family role boundaries is related to work-to-family or family-to-work transitions. They also investigate the impact of role salience in this relationship.

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                                                                                                                                                                        International Relations

                                                                                                                                                                        Many applications of role theory focus on the individual level, but a specific subfield in role theory applies the theory to international relations and thus explicitly takes a broader focus. It concentrates on international relationships and foreign policy and looks not only at individuals but also, for example, at the roles different states have internationally. Wehner and Thies 2014 looks at how role theory could meaningfully be used to study international relations. Holsti 1970 is mentioned as the originator of this application of role theory. Harnisch, et al. 2011 gives an update on the current state of the field. Some of the criticisms on the use of role theory on the topic of international relations mirror the ones in broader role theory, such as the discussion about agency versus structure (see Beyond Interactionalism versus Structuralism). There are, however, also some criticisms that are more specific for this application of role theory. For example, Cantir and Kaarbo 2012 and Wehner and Thies 2014 question the consensus on the national level that is often assumed when considering international relations.

                                                                                                                                                                        • Cantir, Cristian, and Juliet Kaarbo. 2012. Contested roles and domestic politics: Reflections on role theory in foreign policy analysis and IR theory. Foreign Policy Analysis 8.1: 5–24.

                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-8594.2011.00156.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                          Problematizes the often-held assumption in role theory that roles are shared across both elites and masses as well as between elites. It suggests integration of role theory, foreign policy analysis, and international relations theory.

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Harnisch, Sebastian, Cornelia Frank, and Hanns W. Maull, eds. 2011. Role Theory in International Relations: Approaches and Analyses. London: Routledge.

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                                                                                                                                                                            This book gives an overview of the use of role theory on the topic of international relations. In the fourteen chapters after the introduction, this book describes the theories, the roles and institutions, and the US hegemony.

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                                                                                                                                                                            • Holsti, Kalevi J. 1970. National role conceptions in the study of foreign policy. International Studies Quarterly 14.3: 233–309.

                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.2307/3013584Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                              This seminal article applies role theory to the analysis of foreign policies. In order to make this work, role theory needs to be somewhat adapted, which is explicitly discussed in this paper. It also applies the proposed framework/procedure.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Wehner, Leslie E., and Cameron G. Thies. 2014. Role theory, narratives, and interpretation: The domestic contestation of roles. International Studies Review 16.3: 411–436.

                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1111/misr.12149Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                Criticizes some of the previous usages of role theory with respect to international relations and suggests merging role theory with the interpretive approach to overcome these limitations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Other Applications

                                                                                                                                                                                A couple of often-researched topics have been discussed, but role theory has been applied much more broadly than this. Taking the example of gender role theory, it has also been used to look at the relationship between field of study and wage levels (Ochsenfeld 2014), at expectations of pain (Robinson, et al. 2001), at attitudes toward homosexuality (Whitley 2001), at Christmas gift shopping (Fischer and Arnold 1990), and at risk for eating disorders (Cantrell and Ellis 1991). Gender roles are thought to be largely taught through gender socialization. This is being investigated as well, for example, by looking at gender portrayal in popular video games (Dietz 1998). Next to individual-level gender roles, gender roles have also been assessed at the macro level and often referred to as “gender culture.” Gender culture has been linked to several outcomes, including experienced work-family combination pressure in Van der Lippe, et al. 2006, and individual-level support for traditional gender roles and women’s employment in Lück 2006.

                                                                                                                                                                                • Cantrell, Peggy J., and Jon B. Ellis. 1991. Gender role and risk patterns for eating disorders in men and women. Journal of Clinical Psychology 47.1: 53–57.

                                                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1002/1097-4679(199101)47:1<53::AID-JCLP2270470108>3.0.CO;2-NSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                  Looks at the relationship between gender and eating disorder from a gender role perspective by testing the role of femininity and masculinity (also including undifferentiated and androgynous).

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dietz, Tracy L. 1998. An examination of violence and gender role portrayals in video games: Implications for gender socialization and aggressive behavior. Sex Roles 38.5–6: 425–441.

                                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1023/A:1018709905920Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                    Explicitly relates gender portrayals in popular video games to gender role socialization. Although it does not test the relationship between gender portrayal and the impact it has on children, it does explicitly discuss how this could work and how this has implications for gender roles.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    • Fischer, Eileen, and Stephen J. Arnold. 1990. More than a labor of love: Gender roles and Christmas gift shopping. Journal of Consumer Research 17.3: 333–345.

                                                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/208561Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                      Assesses the impact of gender roles on Christmas gift shopping. It looks both at gender role attitudes and gender identity.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Lück, Detlev. 2006. The impact of gender role attitudes on women’s life courses. In Globalization, uncertainty and women’s careers: An international comparison. Edited by Hans-Peter Blossfeld and Heather Hofmeister, 405–432. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        This chapter looks at how both individual and societal gender role attitudes impact women’s life courses. It also looks at how societal gender role attitudes are related to individual gender role attitudes.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        • Ochsenfeld, Fabian. 2014. Why do women’s fields of study pay less? A test of devaluation, human capital, and gender role theory. European Sociological Review 30.4: 536–548.

                                                                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1093/esr/jcu060Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                          This paper compares devaluation theory, human capital theory, and gender role theory to study why fields of study that are popular among women pay less. Of these three theories, gender role theory is the most likely theory to explain found relationships.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          • Robinson, Michael E., Joseph L. Riley III, Cynthia D. Myers, Rebecca K. Papas, Emily A. Wise, Lori B. Waxenberg, and Roger B. Fillingim. 2001. Gender role expectations of pain: Relationship to sex differences in pain. Journal of Pain 2.5: 251–257.

                                                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1054/jpai.2001.24551Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                            This paper describes a newly developed questionnaire, namely the Gender Role Expectations of Pain (GREP) questionnaire. It makes a distinction between feeling pain and reporting pain and discusses how this may differ due to gender role expectations.

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                                                                                                                                                                                            • Van der Lippe, Tanja, Annet Jager, and Yvonne Kops. 2006. Combination pressure: The paid work-family balance of men and women in European countries. Acta Sociologica 49.3: 303–319.

                                                                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1177/0001699306067711Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                              This article looks at country differences in experienced combination pressure. It uses gender culture as a possible explanation for found country differences.

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                                                                                                                                                                                              • Whitley, Bernard E. Jr. 2001. Gender-role variables and attitudes toward homosexuality. Sex Roles 45.11–12: 691–721.

                                                                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1023/A:1015640318045Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                                                This article consists of two studies. The first is a meta-analysis of the relationship between gender-role variables and attitudes toward homosexuality; the second is the authors’ own empirical analysis based on the findings of the meta-analysis.

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