What Is Role Exit in Sociology?

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In sociology, the role exit refers to the process of disengaging from a role that is true to one’s self-identity, in order to take up a new role and identity. A role in sociology is defined as a set of behaviors expected of individuals who hold a particular position or status. For instance, teachers are not just expected to deliver lectures and assign, but also to be honest, concerned, dedicated and responsible.

Role exit is commonly associated with any of two different factors: social characteristics or role-set factors. Social characteristics refer to conditions such as a person’s marital status, sex and age. Role-set factors refer to elements linked with a person’s performance within the role. For instance, individuals unable to participate in two or more exclusive roles may need to exit one.

Role exits may also occur because of a critical event or injury to the individual. Organizational changes, doubts and altered expectations with the role may cause people to exit the role.

Identity processes affect the likelihood of an individual exiting a role-identity. Individuals who compare themselves negatively, or consider themselves inadequate to perform the role are more likely to exit the role. On the other hand, individuals who are connected more emotionally to the role identity are less likely to exit the role.