Types of Pattern Variables

The following outlines the type of value-orientations that, according to Parsons, are characteristic of pre-modern societies.

Type "A"

1. Ascription Status is largely ascribed (that is "given" to you by others). In basic terms, individual status is determined by the type of family into which you are born.


2. Diffuseness People develop relationships that satisfy a large range of needs.
For example, a mother - child relationship satisfies a range of sociological and psychological needs.


3. Particularism People act differently towards particular people, based on the nature of their relationship.
For example, you may trust your immediate family, but not a stranger.


4. Affectivity Relationships between people are largely affective (based on love, trust, close personal involvement and so forth), rather than instrumental (impersonal relationships based on what people can do for us in any given situation).


5. Collective Orientation People put the interests of the social groups to which they belong before their personal interests.

The above can be contrasted with the type of value-orientations that, according to Parsons, are characteristic of modern societies.

Type "B"

1. Achievement Status in society is achieved through the things you do (your personal merits), rather than simply being ascribed.


2. Specificity People enter into a wide range of relationships, each of which satisfies a specific need.
For example, the relationship between a shop assistant and a customer is structured to fulfil a particular need.


3. Universalism Individuals act according to values and norms that are "universal" in their society.
For example, the universal value that all are equal in the eyes of the law.


4. Instrumental Relationships are largely based on what people can do for us in particular situations (and what we can do for them).


5. Self Orientation People give primacy to the pursuit of their own interests, rather than those of the group or groups to which they belong.

Parsons notes that, in modern societies, the major exception to the dominance of "Type B" patterns is the family group. He argues that relationships within families are more-likely to conform to "Type A", mainly because these patterns are required for the successful (primary) socialisation of children.