Medicine & USMLE

Role Strain vs Role Conflict vs Role Exit

Misc P/S
  1. Malthusian Theory
  2. Maslow's Pyramid
  3. Deviance
  4. Role Strain vs Role Conflict vs Role Exit
  5. Nativist vs Learning vs Interactionist Language Theory
  6. Broca's vs Wernicke's Areas


A social role describes a set of behaviors, rights, and obligations expected of a person in a social situation. People may experience role strain, which describes tension within a single role. Alternatively, people can experience role conflict, which describes tension between two or more social roles. Finally, role exit describes the act of an individual leaving a role they previously occupied.

Key Points

  • Social role: set of behaviors, rights, obligations expected in a social situation
    • Role strain: tensions within one role
      • Competing demands within the same social role
    • Role conflict: tension between two or more roles
      • Competing expectations between two roles held by same person
    • Role exit: individual disengages from/leaves a role
      • May result from role strain or role conflict
      • People can replace exited role with a new social role


A student who is stressed by simultaneous commitments to student government and finishing her homework is experiencing role strain within her single role as a student.
A working mother may experience role conflict between her duties as a mother and her job as an employee.
When an individual retires from a long career, they experience role exit from the role of employee and transition to a new role of a retiree.