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Social Structure & Interaction Group Assignment
What is a social role (give examples)? How does one violate his or her role? What is meant
by role exit? And how does role exit relate to the socialization process? Distinguish
between primary and secondary groups (give examples).
A social role is the behavior we expect those of a particular social status, or position, to share.
For example, it has been assumed to be the responsibility of a mother to care for her husband,
children and home. Or, it is society’s expectation that school-aged children attend school. In
other words, these are a society’s shared beliefs for the role of a mother, or the role of a schoolaged child. As our text states, “Roles contribute to a society’s stability by enabling members to
anticipate the behavior of others and to pattern their own actions accordingly” (Witt, 2014, p.
105). In our society, if or when a mother deviates from her assumed role by—let’s say—working
fulltime as roofer and contractor, although it might be more accepted in American society today,
it is more likely to be considered a strange occupation for a woman.
In role conflict, when such expectations oppose or fail to agree with the behaviors society might
view as more acceptable, then the wife and mother whose occupation is now to build and repair
roofs might violate the role of a father who is suddenly left home to cook, clean and care for the
children. In our text, it says that, “Fulfillment of the roles associated with one position may
directly violate the roles linked to a second status” (p. 105). In this situation, many difficulties
can arise among immediate family members, or even among those in the workplace such as
employees, prospective clients, or other contractors in direct competition for business.
The woman in a new business owner/employer role has complicated the role of the wife/mother.
Not only has her role changed, but the husband/father’s role has changed as well. In the text,
Witt examines how sociologist Helen Rose Fuchs Ebaugh presented the “four stage model of
role exit” (p. 107). Stage one is doubt and the woman has become uncertain about her role as a
mother and wife. After all, a ‘good mother’ spends time with her children. In stage two, the
woman begins to seek out other options. Her husband isn’t really seeing her as a good mom
either, he cheats on her with a woman he’s become ‘friends’ with, and the husband and wife
begin to have marital problems. During the third stage, after all the disappointment, arguing in
front of the children, and the harsh words exchanged between the couple, they decide they want
to divorce; the father gets the house and wins custody of the children. In the final stage of role
exit, the ‘ex-wife’ is over-dedicated to her work, has developed an ulcer, and lives in an upscale,
high-rise condo overlooking the city. She has new snobby friends, a younger male ‘companion’
and sees her children on the weekends—if they’re not too busy.
Role exit is related to the socialization process because we learn and adapt to the environment
around us. Just as we learn our roles from infancy, to childhood, to adulthood and how to speak
and behave and conduct ourselves; if we find ourselves in a new environment, we will more than
likely adapt to it as well. The woman in our examples has exited her role as a wife and stay-athome mom, and experienced a rather drastic socialization process. However, she is a very
successful business owner who invented a weatherproofing product for roofs, and was named
Top Female Entrepreneur by Forbes.
The dynamics in the woman’s relationships have changed. Her primary group, which used to be
her husband and children, are now her personal assistant, her on-again-off-again boyfriend, and
her accountant. Our primary group is our small circle of close associations. This group of people,
as our text indicates, “… often entail long-term commitment and involve more of what we think
of as our whole self” (p. 108). Distinguishably, our secondary group is generally large, and not
very personally connected to us. For instance, the woman is member of a group called Better
Business Women, or BBW, but she doesn’t know members of the group on a personal level.
Source: Witt, Jon. SOC. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2014. Print.