Role theory assumes that social setting in good part determines the individual’s role performance and the way in which he and his behavior are perceived. After a period of time, in a particular setting, a person who performs a specific role becomes identified by himself and by others with that role. Once so identified, it is naturally very difficult for him to make radical changes in his role, or for others to allow him to change. It is the hypothesis of this paper that role reversal—the assumption of a new role diametrically opposed to that previously held—is never complete: Vestiges of expectations and behavior from the previous role continue to be noted, and they distort acceptance of the new role by both the individual and the others around him. To illustrate this theory, this paper discusses the careers of psychiatric paraprofessionals who happened to be hospitalized in a psychiatric hospital where they formerly worked, and were treated there by their former peers. The discussion includes the implications of incomplete role reversal for the treatment of medical professionals, for the traditionally defined medical roles, and for role theory.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health