An initial definition of a role is that it represents the way someone is expected to behave in a particular social situation. Roles, therefore, are the parts that we play in our relationships with others (an idea that is - deliberately - similar to that of an actor playing a part in a play. Each individual plays many roles in society, some examples being: Teacher, Student, Mother, Son, Employer, Employee and so forth.
Each role (part that we play) has a number of associated characteristics. It involves:
a. Norms of behaviour. A person playing the role of a student is expected to behave in a particular way (one that is different to a person playing the role of a teacher, for example).
b. A group of other roles that relate specifically to the role we are playing. This is called a role-set.
The main reason for mentioning the idea of a role set is to impress on you the idea that we can only play a role in relation to other people. There would be little point, for example, of my trying to play the role of teacher if I had no students to teach...
Roles have two further dimensions that are worth noting here:
Firstly, what is called its prescribed aspect.
Secondly, what we term role performance.
A final point to note, in this particular context, is the significant part roles play in the creation of a framework to our lives. They represent, in this respect, an important component of the structure of society...