Qualitative Sociology

, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 236–252 | Cite as

Role distancing: Differentiating the role of the elderly from the person

  • Marnie L. Sayles


Elderly participants in an “extended care” class at a senior citizen's center were observed to determine if some of them could continually distance themselves from the “client” role. Although earlier research suggests that people can use role distancing techniques to disassociate themselves successfully fromoccasionally played roles or certain aspects of a role, it is unclear whether or how people successfully disassociate themselvescontinually from enacted roles. Using a symbolic interactionist's definition of role, this paper attempts to 1) classify the circumstances which give rise to both occasional and continual role distancing; 2) specify the conditions under which disassociation from continually enacted roles may be successful; and 3) suggest the relevance of the data to studies on low-status occupations, deviance, and role theory.


Social Psychology Social Issue Early Research Cross Cultural Psychology Senior Citizen 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marnie L. Sayles
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Hawaii-HiloHilo

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