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05.01 Statuses and Roles (Sociology)

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In a way, we are all actors on the stage of life. In this lesson you will examine the kinds of parts you play and how they change over time.

First of all we need you to understand your statuses and the roles associated with them. To do this, complete the following exercise.

I am a ________________. (List as many things as you can- at least five). Examples would be a girl or boy, a student, a brother or sister, an employee, a friend, a member of a certain religious or cultural group, etc.

Because I am a ____________ (choose one from above) I also have to be a _____________________________ (list as many things as you can). For example, because I am a sister, I also have to be a listener, chauffeur, babysitter, etc..

In the exercise above, the things that you said you were are your statuses. A status is a social position. Usually we think of status as being a positive thing, but statuses can be positive or negative. Being a homeless man is a status just like being a millionaire. The duties, or roles, that go along with each status were identified in the second part of the exercise. Look at the link in the URL's and write down definitions for each term.



Sometimes my students get roles and statuses confused. I tell them to remember that a status is a position, and a role is a set of behaviors.

Along with every status come status symbols. A status symbol is an object that is representative of a status. For example, a briefcase is a status symbol of being in business, a minivan is a status symbol of being a “soccer mom” and a white stand-up clerical collar is a status symbol for Catholic priests.

Make a list of at least 15 things (not attitudes or behaviors) that are status symbols of being a teenager.

Are all status symbols positive? List at least five status symbols of negative statuses (gangsters, homeless people, etc.) with their associated statuses.

There are three types of statuses, achieved, ascribed, and master. Go back to
for the definition of each. Now go back to your original list (“I am a ____________________”) above of your statuses. Write each of those statuses here. Now bold each achieved status and italicize each ascribed status. Remember that ascribed statuses are those you have no choice about or are born into. Being a part of an “old money” family, for example, is an ascribed status.

Remember that roles are behavior patterns associated with statuses. You can think of roles as parts you play, as in a dramatic production. Some roles require a partner in order to occur. Could you (for example) be a husband without having a wife? These are called reciprocal roles. Pair each of the following roles with their reciprocal role partner.

Taxi driver Audience
Boss Criminal
Teacher Receiver
Hairdresser Boxer
Quarterback Child
Boxer Grandchild
Parent taxi rider
Grandfather student
Performer employee
Police officer hair client

Roles definitely change over time. The expectations for teachers, for example, have changed drastically. Below you will find an example.

Provisions of the 1923 Utah Female Teachers Contract

Teacher is not to marry.
Teacher is not to keep the company of men.
Teacher must be home between the hours of 8 p.m. and 6 am unless in attendance at a school function.
Teacher may not loiter downtown in ice cream parlors.
Teacher may not leave town at any time without permission of the chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Teacher must not smoke cigarettes or drink wine, beer or whiskey.
Teacher may not ride in a carriage with any man except her brother or father.
Teacher is not to dress in bright colors.
Teacher may not dye her hair.
Teacher will not wear dresses more than two inches above the ankle.
Teacher is to wear at least two petticoats.
Teacher is to bring a bucket to school to clean and scrub the building once a week.

Things have obviously changed since 1923. Write down several examples of changes for teachers here.

Scoring Method: 
Approximate Student Minutes Needed to Complete Activity: 
60 minutes
Approximate Teacher Minutes Needed to Complete: 
5 minutes
Total Points Possible: 
30 points possible
Credit Type: 
required activity