Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Social Role Theory in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Mark StantonEmail author
  • Michael Lee
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_572


Biosocial construction theory


Social role theory seeks to address the question of why men and women behave differently at times and similarly at others. The theory holds that male and female psychologies are not fixed, but rather sex differences and similarities in behavior are shaped by a complex interaction of numerous factors, many of which are changeable and dynamic. The pertinent factors can be broadly sorted into two groups: local factors – those governed by immediate exigencies (i.e., social expectancies, personal beliefs, and individual biology) – and distal, more fundamental factors (i.e., evolved physical attributes of the sexes, cultural conditions, and societal circumstances; Eagly and Wood 2012).

A key tenet of social role theory is that cultural beliefs about gender roles influence men and women’s behavior, most often to accord with societal expectations. The forms these cultural beliefs take largely stem from what roles men and women, respectively,...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Bosak, J., Sczesny, S., & Eagly, A. H. (2012). The impact of social roles on trait judgments: A critical reexamination. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(4), 429–440.  https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167211427308.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  2. Eagly, A. H., & Wood, W. (2012). Social role theory. In P. A. M. Van Lange, A. W. Kruglanski, & E. T. Higgins (Eds.), Handbook of theories of social psychology (Vol. 2, pp. 458–476). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications Ltd..CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Koenig, A. M., & Eagly, A. H. (2014). Evidence for the social role theory of stereotype content: Observations of groups’ roles shape stereotypes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 107(3), 371–392.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0037215.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  4. Stanton, M., & Welsh, R. (2012). Systemic thinking in couple and family psychology research and practice. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 1(1), 14–30.  https://doi.org/10.1037/a0027461.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Wood, W., & Eagly, A. H. (2012). Biosocial construction of sex differences and similarities in behavior. In J. M. Olson & M. P. Zanna (Eds.), Advances in experimental social psychology (Vol. 46, pp. 55–123). Burlington: Elsevier Science & Technology.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Azusa Pacific UniversityAzusaUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Sean Davis
    • 1
  1. 1.California School of Professional Psychology, Alliant International UniversitySacramentoUSA