How are roles and status related to self?How are roles and status related? How are roles and status related to self?
Roles and status have a reciprocal relationship: your status affects your role and your role affects your status. The starting point is your status. If your status is high, say, you're Prince William, then the roles you fulfill will be equally high and very diversified. Think of Donald Trump for the idea of diversified roles. If your status is lowly, think of newly arrived refugee immigrants to the US, then your roles will be equally modest and very narrow in scope. One role will be that of student, even if only a student of English (or French or Hungarian or the native language of the country you immigrate to). Employment roles will be humble ones, perhaps customer service at McDonald's or a janitor for a janitorial service. Fortunately, in a meritocracy, higher education and even internal promotion, say to a McDonald's manager, can increase status and role simultaneously.
The converse side of this reciprocal relationship is that role affects status. Let's say you were a first generation child of refugee immigrants; you succeeded in your education; you pursued higher education; you became a stockbroker for a prestigious New York stock brokerage firm. You soon find that your status has increased commensurate with how society views the prestige of your role as a stockbroker; you will find your prestigious role provides you with unprecedented prestigious status. This role/status effect works in reverse of this example as well: if you were a stockbroker with prestigious role and status and, through the vagaries of life, are reduced to being a customer service manager, your status shrinks in correspondence with your lessened role.
In other countries outside North America, it's considered rude to ask people about their jobs in casual conversation. If you meet someone at a cocktail party or any adult social function in America, it's pretty normal to ask, "so, what do you do?", but if you tried that at a gathering in Paris or Seoul, it would be frowned upon.
Social status and 'role' for adults is often intimately linked to career. Lots of women who chose to stay at home and work as mothers and homemakers find themselves wondering what their role is when their children leave the nest, and lots of people who lost their jobs in the most recent recession have trouble defining who they are outside of their former career. When people ask, "what do you do?" they expect that your answer will reveal something fundamental and basic about your personality and likes and dislikes. They expect, in other words, for your chosen career role--and the status that accompanies it--to reflect something important about your self.
In countries where it's not an appropriate topic for small talk, it's that very relationship between role and status that makes people uncomfortable. It's seen as being similar to going up to a new acquaintance and asking, "so, how much money do you make?"--a request for personal knowledge of your status and self by way of your role.
For a really basic analysis of this question, we might look to a person's identity within a family structure and examine how this affects a person's sense of self. This can be very similar to the example pointed above by litteacher8.
Outside of being a grandparent, we can see important and definitive status issues related to whether or not a person has siblings and, if so, where that person stands in the age order.
For instance, if you have a younger sibling ten years younger than you are, this "structural" family relationship will likely have a deep impact on how you define yourself. Your responsibilities, your values and the lessons you learn will be shaped significantly by the fact that you have a younger person to watch out for and take care of as you grow up.
Considering roles, we might look at the various expectations placed on individuals regarding gender. Females and males experience the world differently, to some degree, as a result of gender roles and gender-oriented identity concepts. This difference in experience can be seen as both a cause and effect of identity formation/self-hood.
It is interesting as a parent and teacher to see how children see themselves in relation to the family or school atmospheres. In response to Pohnpei, my 9 year old son asked me if he could just grow up and stay at home while his wife went to work. That surprised me; but, then I thought about his soccer coach who is also a stay at home dad and is a great example to the kids. With an "anything goes" society, maybe more dreams can become reality for our children. At school, status among the students is still measured by high-priced clothing, sports involvement, and looks. Only those who are strong enough to rise above the stereo-types really find themselves, I think.
Our roles in life can also affect how we look at our selves. I, for example, am a man who is not the primary breadwinner in his family. I stopped working full-time when my first child was born so that I could be the primary caregiver. This put me into a role that is not typical of American men. This has affected the way that I see myself. It has forced me to accept the fact that there will always be some people who think that my choices have been strange and even improper. It may be that this has helped me develop a stronger sense of self; one that is not so dependent upon what society thinks of me.
I think that some of our status come from our role, and so that reflects how we feel about ourselves. For example, once you are a grandmother or grandfather your status is supposed to raise in the family, because you become the matriarch or patriarch. You might feel like you have accomplished something.