In every social structure there are a variety of distinguishable positions—doctor, teacher, carpenter, parent, student, child, and so forth. Each contributes in some way to the total group functioning and is given a certain social status. Status brings with it both privileges and responsibilities. Parents shape the personality development of a growing child by administering various rewards and punishments, society enforces its basic rules of behavior by conferring and withdrawing the privileges of status.
To clarify what is expected of a person with a given position and status, society establishes various roles for its members to play, each associated with a certain pattern of expected behavior.
Each person, young or old, tends to develop the skills, behavior, and values that his role seems to demand. If he deviates too far from what is expected from him, he is likely to run into difficulties in his social relationships. Society may even, revoke his status if it feels that his behavior violates the obligation of his role and is detrimental to the welfare of the group as a whole.
Everyone must play a great variety of roles, depending on the different subgroups to which he belongs. Usually the individual thinks of his various roles within the context of some broad role that he considers more important than others. The role with which he most closely identifies himself carries the highest status, or perhaps the one that seems to represent the personality type preferred by his society. The specific and sometimes conflicting demands made by each of the roles he plays are influential in shaping his development and behavior.