The Difference Between Role Strain & Role Conflict

The Difference Between Role Strain & Role Conflict

Role Ambiguity, Role Strain, & Role Conflict

Role and status differences can create issues such as role ambiguity, role strain, and role conflict. These issues are closely related as they describe states of thought about one’s role in society and can cause confusion concerning a one’s perspective of her role. This confusion is known as role ambiguity, which often results from role strain or role conflict and describes the confusion of not understanding one’s role such as a teacher who acts like a friend to students, crossing professional lines. However, role strain and role conflict are separate issues as ambiguity can be caused by other issues such as status issues.

Status refers to a person’s position which contains a role or roles (Macionis, 2011). People have many roles in different statuses. For example, the status of an engineer may have the role of an employee or manager depending on the person’s position. People often experience role ambiguity when their status creates conflicting roles or strain.

Role strain occurs when obligations of fulfilling the duties of a role become challenging. For example, a teacher who struggles with the need to discipline students while also empathizing. This could be role strain because it puts so much pressure on this particular role in one’s life.

Role conflict occurs when a person’s roles become confused such as a teacher who finds herself conflicted between being a teacher and a parent when dealing with a child domestic violence issues. This would present a role conflict because both of these roles may attempt to solve the problem but may be in conflict between professional and personal ethics.

There is an easy way to differentiate the elements of role. Keeping in mind that role strain is easily defined as stress occurring within a role while role conflict involves more than one role interacting with another (Macionis, 2011). Role ambiguity forms from not understanding one’s role or from role strain or role conflict.

Roles often change along with statuses and these changes can create strain and conflict. There are other ways in which roles become conflicted or strained including ethical dilemmas which might occur from the values of one role conflicting with another. For instance, the person in the role of teacher might find remaining detached from student personal lives difficult when feelings inspired from the role of parent interfere. Many times role issues occur because of outside forces such as companies that try to combine jobs and the new job creates conflicting goals or methods that make work inefficient. As such, roles are extremely important to study for a variety of reasons such as for business or marriage counseling. The complexity of roles and their overlap can create many issues of strain, conflict, or confusion which are easy to overlook if the elements of role are not understood.

Macionis, J. (2011) Society: The Basics, Eleventh Edition, by. Published by Prentice Hall. by Pearson Education, Inc.


Triola Vincent. Mon, Jan 04, 2021. The Difference Between Role Strain & Role Conflict Retrieved from

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