August 31, 2007

Role Conflict

author_brad By Bradley Wright

Let me tell you a story about a college student who saved the monkeys and got to hang out with Pamela Anderson.

Justin attends the University of Connecticut. He is also into animal rights. Now, saying that Justin is “into” animal rights is like saying Paris Hilton is “into” clothes or Donald Trump is “into” money (or bad hair). Justin is an animal rights activist. It’s not uncommon to see pictures in newspaper of him leading some protest or another. Heck, he even has animal-rights themed tattoos across his body.


In the last few years, Justin has been protesting the University of Connecticut’s use of monkeys in medical research. Apparently, an on-going medical experiment would buy monkeys, drill holes in their heads, stick metal rods into their eyes, and then start destroying parts of their brains to see what would happen. When he learned about this, Justin started protesting, holding press conferences, and sending letters to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)—the government agency that overseas animal use in experiments. When Justin could document violations of government policy, the USDA would send a warning letter to the medical researcher conducting these experiments. Eventually, the medical researcher gave up, saying that he was “voluntarily” terminating his study, but it’s clear that Justin single-handedly stopped the experiment.


In recognition of Justin’s achievements, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) gave him an award as the national animal-rights activist of the year, and a Hartford Courant story about the ceremony shows Justin smiling, with his arm around noted PETA supporter, actress Pamela Anderson. Maybe they just smiled for a photo-op, maybe they danced the night away—who knows?—but there they are together in the picture.

There’s a problem, though. All this recognition has come at a price for Justin—he says that his grades have suffered. This makes sense. It’s hard to study for a midterm when you’re chained to a laboratory’s fence or to write a paper when you’re writing press releases.

Justin’s dilemma, the trade-off between getting good grades and advancing animal rights, points to the concept of role conflict. As I wrote about in my last blog entry, roles are social positions that hold expectations for what we do. Each one of us holds multiple roles, and sometimes the expectations of our roles are mutually incompatible—they can’t all be met. This often happens to college students. As a student you should study for tomorrow’s midterm but as an employee you have to work tonight. As a son/daughter you should go home for the three-day weekend but as a friend you should go to the concert with your friends. As a boyfriend/girlfriend you should go out for dinner with your partner but as a dorm resident you should go to the floor’s intramural game.

The more roles one serves, the more often this role conflict happens, and it causes various problems. Role conflict can be stressful. Trying to manage the demands of different roles takes energy and time, and it can be overwhelming. People often get sick when they have too many roles to fulfill. For example, it’s a common sight during finals to see students sniffling away with a tissue box next to their bluebook.

Another consequence of role conflict is deviance. The expectations of any given role can be thought of as norms—like the laws of our country—and violating these norms can lead to punishment. If you show up late for work because of class, you can be fired. If you neglect your boyfriend/girlfriend to play intramurals, you might be dumped. If you go home to your parents’ house instead of going out with your friends, they might not invite you next time.

Usually we think of deviance as a part of who a person is. “This person likes to break rules,” “That person is a criminal;” but from the perspective of role theory, deviance is a function of the roles we serve, not of who we are. So, put anyone into incompatible roles, and the resulting role conflict will turn them into deviants of a sort. Take a nun in a convent, give her contradictory role expectations, and you have someone violating norms—a deviant.


This is not to say that people are helpless against role conflict; in fact, we do lots of things to successfully manage role expectations. We make detailed plans for out days and write them down in little books or PDAs—as a way of fitting everything in. We change one role make it fit with another. We read books and take seminars on how to manage our lives.

Still, as Justin found out, role conflict is part of life, and sometimes there is just no way of getting around it… at least not if you are going to hang out with Pamela Anderson.

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 3


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Role Conflict:


The problem of role conflict is probably worse now than it was 50 years ago. Back then, most married women had one role: wife and mother. Most married men were locked into the "provider" role. These days, both men and women have more choices, which is great, but it also leads to a lot more conflict and stress.

Role conflict or strain has much to do with the numbers of roles a person has, and the degree to which they perform these roles. A person may be a PETA supporter and a college student, but if they merely attend class a couple of times a week, and blog occasionally about their ideas pertaining to animal rights, they probably won't experience much role conflict. However, if they are a 4.0 student, and aggressively seek change in animal treatment, chances are that they will suffer in one of these two roles. Put in several more roles that the average person has (family member, friend, customer, etc.) and many roles will conflict each other.

I am a Chinese postgraduate student. I need your advice on reading some theoretical book about role coonflict, because in my thesis I want to make use of this concept. could you offer me a book list on this topic? thanks a lot.

Role conflict seems unavoidable in modern day society with how many roles people now have to take on to thrive. It’s unfortunate to see parents, whose children are lacking necessary stimulation for growth because the parents are never around to care take, being full-time employees. Today, babysitters are paid to take on a parent like role for absent parents who are obligated to other roles like being a working employee or a continuing education student.

You explained role conflict really well. And I think that it is almost impossible not to have multiple roles in today’s society like you had mentioned. As students we have multiple roles from being a student to trying to have a relationship on top of have to take care of little brothers or sisters if we have them. It’s very hard not to have role conflict. I found it interesting that Justin was able to meet Pamela Anderson. I enjoyed your article a lot.

I am a student in a sociology class and your post explained a concept we just learned, role conflict, very well. It does sound very stressful to be stuck in a situation where many different roles in your life are demanding attention, yet sadly, we all get in that situation. I found it very interesting how you described our criminals as being people who could not manage their role conflict well. Clearly role conflict is a problem that we all face in society, and your post explained it well, I enjoyed it.

I often think about the Founding Fathers and the number of roles they had. For example, Benjamin Franklin was not only involved in politics, but also in science. It may be easy to assume that role conflict for these individuals in the early colonies was much more pervasive than it is today, but I feel that on the contrary, it is not. The reason being is because there was less to worry about and waste time in back then. For example, people did not have the internet. They did not have email and television and radio. They could really make more use of their time and waste less time with things of triviality. Nowadays, we are so preoccupied with distractions like facebook, twitter, television, etc, that the management of our roles becomes more stressful.

I always knew the more roles you played, the more conflict you endured, however, I never thought of deviance as a function of the roles we serve, but clearly see that now with your insight. Roles have changed decreasing out deviance as we enjoy the new roles, and have the ability to change roles as we please.

I believe that role conflict has gotten out of control in today's society. People, in general, are expected to do so many things. We are expected to do our job right, have time to socialize, take care of our living quarters, probably have a hobby of some sort, etc. There is simply not enough time in the day to accomplish all of these things. Sure, poeple say that all you have to do is prioritize. UNfortunately, this is very difficult. I believe that it is extremely hard for high school and college students. IN high school you are expected to maintain a high GPA, participate in sports, be in clubs: in which you are expected to run for an office eventually, do chores at home, and still have time to be social outside of the groups you are in. It is almost too much. I believe that this is why young people are becoming more and more prone to breakdowns. It is a side effect to role conflict and there is no cure except simplicity.

I agree. Many people struggle when it comes to role conflict. We have all of these social positions that sometimes it becomes difficult to meet all of our roles’ expectations. For instance, I am a student, daughter, friend, and teammate in soccer. Do I spend my weekend studying for a test? Go to the movies with my family? Hang out at a friend’s house? Or go to the team dinner? These decisions can become stressful. However, Role conflict is simply a part of life. Luckily, it can be managed. One way to manage time is to keep a detailed planner of the day so you know what time you’re fitting everyone in.

As aduluts we all know there is a cause and effect to everthing we do. Sometime the out come is not what we would like it to be but i'm sure where there is a lose there is a gain. This guy may gave gotten bad grades yet, he help people and animals out. Justin can easyliy go back to school. In the end it was for a good cause and he did not lose out in anyway. Helped Animals chilled with a hot babe and got sometime off school. hehehe

I feel that role conflict is a greater problem now because lifes demands have changed. An example of this I can relate to is single parents who often play many roles each day. Really, I do not know if it is possible for an intact family to avoid role issues. I am sure role conflict is alomst everwhere and it puts stress on relationships.

I think that role conflict is a interesting subject to speak on because has elevated so much over the years.Today women play more important roles then fifty years ago.Last but not least,role play has changed due to the demand.

Role conflict, well fifty years ago men and women were far different. as opposed to now. Men and women almost all play the same roles. Where as it means to be the provider and the caretaker. My personal belief is that there is no perticular role for anyone. Everyone should have the equal chance to be what they have to be or desire.

I agree with the blog. There are several conflict issues that have now surface in my life due to being a full-time student. I don't have time to cook four course meals for my family. I only get about six hours of sleep a night. I am beginning to hear complaints from my children. I'm fighting fatique at work.

Justin's Role Conflict is a good example with a person who has volunteer or just signed up for a bunch of different activities. Justin should of spread out his activites at appropriate times. I've had a couple of times where I was helping out with an athletic event and had homework to finish for the next day.

"The highest form of wisdom is kindness."
The Talmud
I do find myself in that spot many of times but i have keep in mind that if i do the right thing not just for the right now and keep whats true to me not whats true to the circumstance,keep a opne mind for what will happen maybe this conflict can be taken down to size divide and conquer.....

Role Conflict is hard to deal with sometimes. I am a person that will make time for everyone even if my grades have to suffer sometimes. To me, my family and friends are very important. I need to be there for all of them. Sometimes I don't have time to talk with one of them because I am with another one and I often feel bad about it. Also, I want to do everything like go to my friends house then out to eat when I know I have to study.It is hard to balance school and a social life. I pick a social life almost everytime.Sometimes your different schedules don't work out. I don't have alot of "roles" yet since I am not a parent or work right now. I know it gets harder the more you have on your plate.

Justin had to chose between standing up for what he belived in or taking care of his school work, he chose to stand and make a difference. I have had plenty of role conflicts for example, I was on the track team and I had an imprortant meet coming up but my mom was coming home from work (she is in the army) she was only going to be home for a few days then leave. I chose to go to my track meet I love my mom but this was really important to me. I came in first place and qulified for Europeans. I feel I made the rigt choice.

Justin, like a lot of us, just has a lot of things on his plate, so to speak. While tending to one role, he was neglecting another. I had a case of role conflict when I first started college. I was working two jobs and trying to make time to study and get my assignments done on time. Eventually, I got so overwhelmed, I had to sit down and make out a schedule for everything. Days I would be able to work, and days that I wouldnt. I gave myself breathing room and it has really helped me managed all of my roles.

Justin wanted to do something good for the monkeys because of this his grades suffered. Kind of the saying no good deed goes unpunished. I find this happens to way too many people and have been a victim myself from time to time.

Justin just had too much going on at once, just like alot of us do! I have been struggling alot myself with role conflict recently. My duties as a wife have been conflicting with my duties as a best friend. and my school and work schedule have been clashing, and it is so very true that is becomes very stressful! i finally jsut had to sit down and make out a schedule. i havent tried it yet, but i am anxious to see how it works

There is nothing wrong with wanting to help animals and everything, but when it conflicts with bettering yourself and advancing your education, then there sould be a place where you draw the line. I would have put my letters and protests on hold until summer or another break from school at some point in time. When he finishes school, then he should persue his dreams of being an animal rights activist. He may even want to change his major so that when he finishes school he can make money doing the things he loves. Social conflict can be resolved.

Justin did have a lot on his plate. We all have that problem at some point in our lives. Right now I am trying to balance working, going to school, family, and starting a band. My family and music have been important roles in my life and I am not willing to give them up but I do know that my education is what is going to make me money one day. It is hard trying to manage all of this but I will get through it and live a happy life!

Justin was able to stand up and make a stand. Its a good example of role conflict. Today more than ever, role conflict is a part of everyday life. Because of the way society as a whole is changing, more and more things are interlacing.

Justin is just standing up for what he beleives in. More often than not when this happens there is gonna be some kind of resistance or conflict. The right thing is done by Justin but there are consequences to everything you do. The secret is to prioritize. Maybe Justin could have held off his beliefs until after the finals. Although that wasn't the case he did what he has the right to do and in my book it was right. I love football. I can't miss a game, highlight, or score but on Sundays I have church and football takes a back seat. Its my priority to attend church and catch up on football later.

Justin suffered in his academic studies because he was playing 2 different roles that caused confict. While trying to succeed in one of his roles, the other failed. This was due to role conflict. My role conflict came in the form of a boyfreind/family situation. My family was going through a difficult time, and because I was so wrapped up in my role as a daughter and sister, my realtionship with my boyfriend suffered. To deal with that, I made sure I set aside time to just be with my boyfriend and not let anything interfere with that time.

As a person there are sometimes things that we really want to happen and as a result our grades might drop or we might fail a test or something, but with Justin, he knew what he was doing and he was trying to make a difference.

Justin's role conflict was that he couldn't keep his grades up and still be an animal rights activist. I think that if he tried harder, he could have kept his grades up. I have several role conflicts at the moment. I'm trying to juggle work, school, hanging out with my friends, watching t.v., reading books, and so many other things. I believe that if I put my priorities in order, I am able to better perform my duties at work, and keep my grades up.

Justin's problem is that he is trying to be a full time student while trying to save monkeys who are being use in all the wrong ways. He had to make people see this and forgot about his books and they studing. The role conflict i have experiance has been a bit different being a full time student, Cheerleader, going out with friends and family and working part time can be a hand FULL. But the way I dealt with this is to plan ahead and keep a student planner is very handy.

Sometimes experiencing a “role conflict” means breaking out of the social mold for something you feel strongly about. Kudos to that guy for freeing those monkeys and standing up for something he believed in. I say morals over society any day of the week.

In Justin's fight for animal rights- in this case the monkeys at the University of Conneticut- caused his grades to slip. Think about it, if yo8 are putting all your time and effort into one particular thing your other things are neglected.

He almost completely quit focusing on one aspect of his life to simple focuse on another. I dont know if cause its so late at night or what. But i cant currently think of any.

Role conflict has its positives and negatives obviously but it is true that the negative has outweighed the positive. Multi-tasking like that can certainly be a pain especially to people you love or are involved with on a deeper level in your life. Kind of like a father who works so much and never has time for his children because he is trying to provide for them. He is doing a great thing but it has negative effects to the core. Pretty ironic.

Role conflict is definitly an issue this day in age. Our lives are very fast paced, trying to manage work, bills, family, friends, and for many school. It is very hard to manage time enough for it all. I find that it's to get off work, then go to school, have time to study, nap, and then go back to work. It seems like I do not have time to even think straight, much less time to study, and focus like I need to. I deal with it the best that I can, I tell people no I can do this I have got to do this with school. Many times they understand and later tell me how proud they are, and that they wish they could be as focused and dedicated as I am. I just have to take deep breaths, sometimes go for a walk to get my thoughts back together, and go with the flow.

Justin's role confict came in the form that he could not balance time as an animal rights activist and keep his grades up at the same time. This type of thing happens to people all the time. In high school, if I concentrated more on football than my school work then my grades tended to slip.

role conflict is a big issue i think it can be controlled if the people involved work hard to make it work!!! remember life is work!!

I think role conflict is umavoidable. People play at least 2 roles daily. I tjink that Justin had a lot of stuff on his plate. The more roles the more conflict. he had toomuch going on at once. I admit is hard I work and I am a college student its hard doing that

Justin's role conflict came when he tried to get good grades while at the same time advance animal rights.

My own experience in role conflict is trying to balance my time in getting good grades versus taking the place of my dad's role of working in the home while he is away for months at a time.

I deal with this conflict by prioritizing my time and asking myself of what is the immediate need at that moment.

Justin's role conflict was between him studying to get good grades and keeping up his work as an animal rights activist. I've had a role conflict between school and work before. My employer wanted me to be available any day, any time and as a result, I chose school over work.

Justin had to choose between making a difference in the lives of many animals or studying to get better grades. From his actions, we see that he felt the animals were more important. He was rewarded and punished for that action. He got the award, but his grades suffered.
I had a choice between spending time with my family or going to the movies with my friends. I love my family, but I see them everyday. I chose to go to the movies. My parents were a little disappointed because it was "family day", but we all ended up having fun where we were.

I believe everyone deals with role conflict, It's easier to deal with when one is organized.Sometimes it's hard for me to deal with role conflict being a parent and working a full-time job. I like to be a role model , but as of lately I 've been doing things that take my better half from me.

I think that rokle confict is important. I play a important role by taking care of my family without a male friend in my life and going to school. But I am making happen.

Justin grades suffered because he thought animal rights was more imprtant or did not balance between both roles. I went through role conflict between school, work, and family and I try to balance it all out.

Role conflict seems unavoidable in modern day society with how many roles people now have to take on to thrive. It’s unfortunate to see parents, whose children are lacking necessary stimulation for growth because the parents are never around to care take, being full-time employees. Today, babysitters are paid to take on a parent like role for absent parents who are obligated to other roles like being a working employee or a continuing education student.

Justin's role conflict was juggling between saving the monkeys and all the responsibility that comes with that, and his college career. Its hard to find a balance between the two when they are both very time consuming. Lucky for me, i usually dont have any role conflicts. I have a job that is very lenient with my college schedule. It is hard sometimes to find a balance between the two when i want to come home and rest but instead i have to study.

Role conflict is an ongoing challenge with most people in this nation. It's considered necessary to have your kids do at least one inter mural activity during each season, or your not delivering them the opportunity that you never had. On top of all this, they have school, homework, and God forbid a social life. This hectic way of living continues through college and adulthood and just causes so many unnecessary stresses.

What Justin had to do is very common for students. An example of my role conflict would be that since I am in school and getting good grades, I haven't had time to clean my car like I used to. I haven't been able to find a moments free time between school, kids, and taking care of the house. Anything you do usually results in role conflict, no matter how small or great.

Justin did what he had to do. He was against the playing the role of hurting animals no matter the reason. He did a good think. Many people have to make those decisions everyday.

Justin made a great achievement for his cause. He however also had to learn about role conflict. Justin's conflict was that his grades were suffering while he was doing activist work for his cause. Justin did not have time to study or write paper because he was involved in protests and media relations. Role conflicts come about all the time in life. A conflict I once had was that I was in a theatre production and my best friend was having a baby. On opening night my friend had her baby and I had to choose between filling my obligation as a cast member or fillintg my obligation as a friend. I chose to do my three scences and leave and i made it just in time for tyhe birth of my frind's baby. Sometime role conflict does not work out that well. I guess it is all about what is more important to you as a person.

Even as a high school senior, I have begun to feel the stresses of role conflict. In our society, there is such a push for individuals to be well-rounded, that we can't seem to find the time to do the things that we truly enjoy. Especially with college admissions, the students who have extremely high test scores and GPAs, as well have been involved in the arts, clubs and community service are richly rewarded with scholarships and prestigious college offers. However, in my experience, these students are usually so crunched for time in all of their commendable endeavors that their relationships suffer considerably.

Justin just needed to learn time management a little better, and not try to take on too many tasks at once.

I think that no matter how much you try to eliminate different roles in your life, you'll end up with things to do. People who like to be busy will find away to be. Therefore, I think role conflict will come about in any situation. Justin has a passion, and it will help him out sometime to be as caring as he is.

WOW!!!I really enjoy reading your blog. My mind is now thinking of my many role or hats I'm wearing. I truly believe we must choose the most important roles and stick with those regardless of what society may think

Justin's is a vert courageous person and his role conflict was the choice between his grades and being an animal rights leader. Most of my role conflicts come with my employment and school. School always comes out to be the winner.

I believe that role conflict is unavoidable. Many people have more than one priority now, like job and family. People have to choose whether or not they will work or go to their daughter's first soccer game. As a student and having a job, I have to do school work and also work. Choosing which role I should play in this situation is hard. The strain of the conflict lead to confusion in what may be the right thing to do.

I think this is a great example of role conflict. Justin who is a Animal Activest who deeply cares for animals and their treaments. He is doing everything he can for them. Making proteset, press annoucments, and even recieving awards for them. He is doing all this and yet is still trying to be a college student. His grades have slipped but yet he is has a major impact still on the world and is having a role conflict for it.

Role conflict is definitely something that we all struggle with. I think you explained this very well, and I definitely agree with this post. As a student I often have to decide between two or even three activities. But I've learned that I have to get my priorities in order, and if I do this these conflicts will become easier to deal with. Still, that doesn't seem to solve the problem. I often have a very hard time choosing between my studies or helping a friend out. It's a tough choice, but that's life, and we all have to make tough decisions. I really like what Justin did, but are his grades suffering worth it? Only you can decide.

I fully agree with this article, I see this struggle all the time in high school students. It can basically be broken down into to categories, the students who study a lot don't have the best social lives, but get great grades. While, the students who hang out with friends a lot have great social lives, but not the best grades. Finding the balance between the two is one of the hardest parts of High School.

Role conflict has always been prominent, but your story about Justin shows just how extreme it can be. Even though he made such a great impact, he felt the consequences of it through his school work. It just really sucks that role conflict is even more prominent now, and more people are feeling it. As a student, education has become easier and harder at the same time which adds strain and having to choose between two roles. Either way, we always feel some sort of deviance by having to choose.

Very many people can relate to Justin’s experience. Personally, my biggest role conflict usually arises between being a friend and a son. Often times my friends have very different ideas of what is fun and socially acceptable than my parents. I’m a pretty easy going guy so it’s usually not hard to occupy both roles simultaneously. However there are times when my friends’ shenanigans are far outside of my parents’ regulations. When we talk about deviance, I think it’s especially important to evaluate the short term and long term effects. If don’t hang out with my friends that night, short term they’ll be mad, but in the long run we’ll still be friends. If I disrespect my parents, they will also be mad, however in the long run they may not trust me to hang out with those same people. I am a firm believer that this kind of thinking is critical to dealing with role conflict.

The role conflict suggested in this article seems realistic and relatable to modern life. Nowadays people are responsible for many more roles than they were in the past. Due to inability to manage time and prioritize, certain roles may suffer due to a person’s failure to attend to those duties. Justin’s role as a student suffered while his role as an animal rights activist flourished. This provides a perfect example of the consequences that can arises from an inability to balance one’s many roles.

I think the way you presented role conflict was great. I feel in today's society, we tend to have more role conflict because we have to balance school, sports, social events, jobs, etc. I feel back then as an adult you strictly were a stay at home mom and the dad provided. People now tend to schedule as much as they can in to one day trying to accomplish everything they can't always meet, as you mentioned. Great article.

Peronsally, I think that Justin would benefit from focusing on his role as a student. The role conflict could be avoided if he was a student first and a animal rights activist second. I say this because with a higher level of education, Justin would be more respected and better able to express his opinions. Then, all of his attention could be focusing on saving the animals instead of spliting his time between that and school /and/ it would benefit his being an acitivst to gain more schooling.

i have been given to discuss a question about role's fun because role conflict is evident and increasing today in the society due to the increasing demands and desires.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Become a Fan

The Society Pages Community Blogs

Interested in Submitting a Guest Post?

If you're a sociology instructor or student and would like us to consider your guest post for please .

Norton Sociology Books

You May Ask Yourself

Learn More

Essentials of Sociology

Learn More

The Family

Learn More

The Real World

Learn More

Introduction to Sociology

Learn More

The Everyday Sociology Reader

Learn More

« Segregation's Lingering Legacy | Main | The Downside of Diversity? »