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Role theory

Social Role Valorisation (SRV)
Deinstitutionalisation
Disability services
Disability and community

Community valued roles and Social Role Valorisation (SRV)
Valued roles or Valued relationships
Labelling as a social phenomenon
Personal Fulfillment, Values and The Role of Supportive Communities




Role theory

Role: (Top) (see also labeling as a social phenomenon, Social roles Vs Community roles Vs Identity)
Is not exclusive to how we see ourselves or each other, a role can describe anybody or anything that we associate with or have any interaction with.

1) We learn strategies (a set of behaviors) that we find useful in coping with our personal feelings and day to day situations. These strategies can be described as the person's role (or function) within the activity that the person is participating in. We learn these strategies through our relationships with others in society. In the family, at school, recreation or work all involve strategies. A lawyer, for example, learns a set of strategies in defending someone in court. A person learns set of strategies in teaching a class or being a father. A general learns strategies in defeating the enemy. A person with an intellectual disability learns social skills, life skills, employment/recreational skills and other positive behaviors that provide a valued role for the person (friend, painter, gardener, musician etc.). These strategies are often used in various similar situations, or mixed and matched in new situations, where the person has no existing sets of strategies. We generally have 2 or more sets of strategies that are used in different activities and situations, however, a person may apply one strategy to all activities and situations that may arise. Labels are also a way to describe these roles, where a person is characterised by a set of strategies or behaviors.

2) The term "Role" (also known as a social role or social function) is also used to describe the activity, the setting and the various interactions of the members within the activity and the setting, where these interactions are consistent and can be defined and measured (in the sense of comparison with other consistent interactions), and have a particular function within the activity and the setting.
These roles are determined by the society, community, club, team or group that we are participating in, in that there are a set of expectations and behaviours associated with the role within the activity.
(Note: I have avoided the term "behaviors", as a behavior describes a person's actions and reactions, rather than the various intercourses that happen between members, and their relationships with each other, within the activity and the setting.)

Our role in a particular activity is often predetermined by the type of activity, the setting and the other members of the activity. In a classroom, for example, (1): the type of activity is structured towards learning and the gaining of skills and knowledge in applying the learning, (2): the setting is separated (restricted to members that fulfil a set of criteria etc) and (3): the roles of the members are Teacher (imparts the knowledge) - Students (learns the knowledge). In order for a person to have a valued role within the activity and setting, the person must be able to satisfy the criteria associated with the activity and setting. Introducing other roles into the classroom (social system) may create some problems.

A particular role (or Label) is also placed on a person or group of people by a society, community, club, team or group as a way to justify or legitimise a policy or treatment of the person or group. This happens all the time where a particular behaviour or characteristic of the person or group does not fit into the normal behaviours or characteristics of the society, community, club, team or group. These policies or treatments often become institutionalised into the society, community, club, team or group.

Buildings also have different roles or functions within society. The role of the building describes the various ways buildings are used, and the various interactions that happen within the building. The function of the building is determined by these interactions and how they relate to the members. The most obvious of this is a "Function center" that is designed to be used for different functions. A concert hall has a particular role and function within society. Communities, hospitals, classrooms, groups/teams and even a knife can have a different role and function according to the user and others within the activity and the setting.

We all play a role in each community we are a part of. A father in one community may be a teacher, worker or a painter in another community. The value of the person's role is determined by the expectations of the community in the person fulfilling that role. Sometimes other roles are assigned to members where they do not come up to those expectations of the others in a community. They may have a particular characteristic that is different to the others, or need special support that is not available within a community. If the person does not have something of signifance to contribute to the community, that person will be treated as different (asigned a devalued social role).

Social roles are how we see ourselves and others in society. They are often about a particular characteristic (age, gender, race, ethnicity, culture, occupation, disability or even ability) rather than the person. A Muslim, for example, is often treated different because of his/her religion and culture. If the Muslim also had a particular disability or disadvantage, that person would have less chance of becoming a valued member in society. The same can be said for an aboriginal, a bikie or drugie, or possibily even a bank manager or used car salesman.

Society tends to group people into different classifications or groups according to a particular characteristic of a person that stands out. Regardless of the persons individual differences. society generally assigns a particular role to all people that share that characteristic. This role describes the persons behaviours, and how we should associate with the person. Roles are also a way to visualise the person and what we may expect from the person. Some social roles are positive. Hero, friend, supporter, defender of the faith, aussie battler, statesman etc all create a positive image of the person. Accordingly they are treated with respect and considerstion as valued members of society. Whether they are good people or not, is not as important as their social role. Other social roles are negative. Druggie, criminal, nigger, deviant, sick, dole bludger, alcoholic etc all create a negative picture or impression of the person, and as a result, the person will be negitavely valued, and treated differently to others, regardless of any other positive characteristicts the person may have.

Roles are neither positive or negative. The value that placed on the role is determined by the expectations and behaviours associated with the role within the activity. At a shop, for example, there are a number of roles of the people in the shop. Two of those roles are 1) sales person and (2) customer. If a customer can not behave accordingly, or has some characteristic that does not fit into to the expectations of the sales person the customer may not be treated with dignity or respect.

The value of a persons role is purely subjective when applied to different settings and activities in different communities. We all have different roles depending on what we are doing, where we are doing it and who we are doing it with, and therefore the person's role takes on different meanings within each community that the person is participating in. Roles are like the clothes we wear. Each activity requires a different outfit (both literally and figuratively). The example of actors in a play also shows us that roles are learned behaviours. We all are conditioned to behave a certain way (we learn our lines from the moment of birth) according to the activity, setting and the expectations of others within the activity and setting i.e.: we don't wear our bathers to a formal dinner etc. It could also be argued that communities have become conditioned in behaving a certain way when looking after devalued people (in the historical sense, as well as in society today) (Removing the barriers to community participation and inclusion). All members are expected to behave according to their role within the setting. If a person’s role is to be submissive, then, when the person takes on a more active role, the person may be punished.

Valued roles:
Teacher - student, doctor - patient, painter - art lover, friend - friend all suggest there is a positive co-relationship between the roles. Other roles such as policeman, politician, professor, accountant, fisherman, businessman, banker all suggest a value in providing a service within the community. How these roles are practiced depends on the person in the role. A policeman or banker for example have valued roles, but may use the role to their own advantage in abusing his/her power or stealing money.

Devalued roles:
Devalued roles are usually assigned to people that do not fit into the community (marginalised). These roles describe a negative characteristic of a person that sticks out. Others may also be assigned the same role (labelling) in order to legitimise or justify the person or group being treated differently to others in the community. Deviant, sick, druggie, dole bludger etc. are some labels that are used to devalue a person or group.



Social roles Vs Community roles Vs identity:  (Top)
While the term Role is useful in describing our relationships with each other, I feel that there has been some confusion in the practical application of the term in service delivery and outcomes. Are we applying an Implicit role to a specific activity and setting? Are we applying an Explicit role to a social setting?

Our role in a particular activity is often predetermined by the type of activity, the setting and the other members of the activity. In a classroom, for example, (1): the type of activity is structured towards learning and the gaining of skills and knowledge in applying the learning, (2): the setting is separated (restricted to members that fulfill a set of criteria etc.) and (3): the roles of the members are Teacher (imparts the knowledge) - Students (learns the knowledge). In order for a person to have a valued role within the activity and setting, the person must be able to satisfy the criteria associated with the activity and setting. Introducing other roles into the classroom (social system) may create some problems.

The value of a person's role is purely subjective when applied to different settings and activities in different communities. We all have different roles depending on what we are doing, where we are doing it and who we are doing it with, and therefore the person's role takes on different meanings within each community that the person is participating in. Roles are like the clothes we wear. Each activity requires a different outfit (both literally and figuratively) The example of actors in a play also shows us that roles are learned behaviours. We all are conditioned to behave a certain way (we learn our lines from the moment of birth) according to the activity, setting and the expectations of others within the activity and setting i.e.: we don't wear our bathers to a formal dinner etc. It could also be argued that communities have become conditioned in behaving a certain way when looking after devalued people (in the historical sense, as well as in society today). All members are expected to behave according to their role within the setting. If a person's role is to be submissive, then, when the person takes on a more active role, the person may be punished.

Using the term "Identity" enables us to understand the person, as well as the various roles the person has within each community that he/she is participating in. It is immediately obvious what we are referring to i.e.: the person and not the role of the person. The concept of identity (as apposed to social identity or role identity - MASK, ROLE, AND IDENTITY; THE SEARCH FOR THE INNER PERSON) describes who they are, their feelings, their hopes and desires, their interests, the essence of the person as well as the characteristics of the person. By looking at a person in terms of his/her identity, we can see that the person's role is only a part of the person. If a person's identity is positively valued (by the mother, brother, school mates etc.) then sometimes, the role of the person is of little importance.

I remember a saying "You cant judge a book by it's cover. You have to read it.". We all have preconceptions about others and often we never really know the person, no matter how often we read the book. These preconceptions come from others, a characteristic that the person may have, our own feelings at the time, first impressions or any number of other reasons. Sometimes there is a negative chemistry that means that we may never feel comfortable in the others company. But at least, by looking past the person's role or particular characteristic we have a better chance of understanding the person for who he/she is.











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