Saturday, June 27, 2009

Role Conflict / Role Strain

These next few posts are from my sociology classes. I was required to take them to fulfill the Humanities requirements at Washburn University. Though I am quite concerned with what goes on in our society, I admit that I would never have taken these classes without the requirement. I am now glad that I did so. We had many interesting discussions and I discovered that I am not a cynic. I am what they call a "conflict theorist" and that I adhere to the "critical approach." (Note: "critical approach" refers to critical thinking, not simply being critical all the time, regardless of what my friends may say.)
Some of these papers are written somewhat tongue-in-cheek because I knew both of my teachers had a good sense of humor and would appreciate the comic relief. I guess I should also mention that I have received an A on almost every paper I have written.
For this assignment we were simply to define "Role Conflict" and "Role Strain" giving examples of each from our own life experience.

Role Conflict / Role Strain by Grant S, Robertson Written February, 2009
When a young person first goes away to college, it can be a vulnerable time. Without friends and family around, one can easily fall prey – as I did – to christian proselytizers roaming campuses, looking for converts. Once converted, the primary expectation is for that convert to now believe – on faith alone – everything taught them by their “brethren.” It is drilled in, sermon after sermon. However, this is diametrically opposed to the fundamentals of academics taught to those same new college students. These generally consist of aphorisms such as: “Question authority.” and “Demand evidence to support conclusions.” So, after taking multiple religion courses in a vain attempt to bolster my faith, I concluded that there were nearly four billion people[1] out there who believed what they believed merely because it was what they had grown up with. And there was absolutely no evidence to support any of it. This, to me, is the perfect example of “role conflict,” when two separate social roles – that of a religious believer and that of an academic – place different opposing expectations upon the same person.
A similar but distinctly different situation is called “role strain.” This is when the same social role can impose conflicting expectations on the same person. For instance, when a man is in a relationship with a woman, he is quite often expected to simply “know” what she means, even when she gives only vague hints. He must often “know” what is expected of him without the woman being required to say, or even to give one of those vague hints. Worst of all, he is often expected to “know” why she is mad at him. However, if at any time, this man claims that he does know what said woman is thinking or what she is going to do or say next then watch out. He will often suffer an ire excelled only by that produced by infidelity. For a man to know what a woman is thinking means that she has become predictable, no longer mysterious, and possibly no longer alluring. This, of course, is unacceptable. So, you see, once a man enters into a relationship with a typical[2] woman, he is doomed to be wrong … no matter what.

[1] This was back in 1978.
[2] Fortunately, I am now engaged to a distinctly non-typical woman.


  1. Interesting outlook on relationships;

  2. Yes, Genine, I do have quite a different outlook on relationships, and many other things. Just Google my name or look at my posts on Facebook or Huffington Post. Please keep in mind that this paper is intended to be mostly tongue-in-cheek. Yes, I have known women who behaved as I described, but by no means do I believe all women are like that. However, it should serve as a lesson to women to at least pay attention to what kinds of mixed signals they may be sending the men in their lives and how difficult it can be to live up to these kinds of unwritten, unspoken, and often contradictory expectations.