Personal Agency in the Accumulation of Multiple Role-Identities

  • Peggy A. Thoits


Identity theory and its parent theory, symbolic interactionism, are based on the fundamental premise that society and self mutually shape and influence each other. In this chapter, I focus especially on the self-affects-society side of this interdependent relationship, because it has been neglected both theoretically and empirically. My goal is to foster greater appreciation of the degree to which individuals are active agents in their own lives and to spell out some of the implications of this observation for the further expansion of identity theory.


Psychological Distress Personal Agency Identity Theory American Sociological Review Identity Standard 
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.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adelmann, P. K. (1994). Multiple roles and psychological well-being in a national sample of older adults. Journal Of Gerontology: Social Sciences, 29, S227–S285.Google Scholar
  2. Bandura, A. (2001). Social cognitive theory: An agentic perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 52, 1–26.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barnett, R. c., & Baruch, G. K. (1987). Social roles, gender, and psychological distress. In R. C. Barnett, L. Bicner, & G.K. Baruch (Eds.), Gender and stress (pp. 122–143). New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  4. Baruch, G. K., & Barnett, R. (1986). Role quality, multiple role involvement, and psychological well-being in midlife women. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51, 578–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Berbrier, M., & Schulte, A. (2000). Binding and nonbinding integration: The relational costs and rewards of social ties on mental health. Research in Community and Mental Health, 11, 3–27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blurrier, H. (1969). Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  7. Burke, P. J. (1991). Identity processes and social stress. American Sociological Review, 56, 836–849.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Burke, P. J. (1997). An identity model for network exchange. American Sociological Review, 62, 134–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burkc, P. J., & Stets, J. E. (1999). Trust and commitment through self-verification. Social Psychology Quarterly, 62, 347–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burton, R. P. D. (1998). Global integrative meaning as a mediating factor in the relationship between social roles and psychological distress. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 39, 201–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Callero, P. 1994. From role-playing to role-using: Understanding role as resource. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 228–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cooley, C. H. (1902). Human nature and social order. New York: Scribner’s.Google Scholar
  13. Coser, L. with R. L. Coser). (1974). Greedy institutions. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  14. Derogatis, L. R., & Spencer, P. M. (1982). The Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI): Administration, scoring and procedures manual-I, Baltimore: Clinical Psychometric Research, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.Google Scholar
  15. Ellsworth, R. B. (1979). Holistic profile of adaptation to life. Institute for Program Evaluation, Box 4654, Roanoke, VA 24015.Google Scholar
  16. Ervin, L., & Stryker, S. (2001). Theorizing the relationship between self-esteem and identity. In T. J. Owens, S. Stryker, & N. Goodman (Eds.), Extending self-esteem theory and research: Sociological and psychological Currents (pp. 29–55). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Ethier, K. A., & Deaux, K. (1994). Negotiating social identity when contexts change: Maintaining identification and responding to threat. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 67, 243–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Froberg, D., Gjerdingen, D., & Preston, M.(1986). Multiple roles and women’s mental and physical health: What have we learned? Women and Health, 11, 79–96.Google Scholar
  19. Gecas, V., & Burkc, P. J. (1995). Self and identity. In K. S. Cook, G.A. Fine, & J. S. House (Eds.), Sociological perspectives on social psychology (pp. 41–67). Boston: Allyn &Bacon.Google Scholar
  20. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Goode, W. J. (1960). A theory of role strain. American Sociological Review, 25, 483–496.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gore, S., & Mangione, T. (1983). Social roles, sex roles and psychological distress: Additive and interactivemodels of sex differences. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 24, 300–312.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Gove, W. R. (1984). Gender differences in mental and physical illness: The effects of fixed roles and nurturant roles. Social Science and Medicine, 19, 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gove, W. R., Style, C. B., & Hughes, M. (1990). The effect of marriage on the well-being of adults. Journal of Family Issues, 11, 4–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Hong, J., & Seltzer, M. M. (1995). The psychological consequences of multiple roles: The nonnormative case. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36, 386–398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jackson, P. B. (1997). Role occupancy and minority mental health. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 38, 237–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kiecolt, K. I. (1994). Stress and the decision to change oneself: A theoretical model. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 49–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Lazarus, R. S., & Folkrnan, S. (1984). Stress, appraisal, and coping. New York: Springer.Google Scholar
  29. Marks, S. (1977). Multiple roles and role strain: Some notes on human energy, time, and commitment. American Sociological Review, 42, 921–936.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. McAdam, D. (1988). Freedom summer. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  31. McCall, G.I., & Simmons, J. L. (1978). Identities and interactions. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  32. McLanahan, S., & Adams, J. (1987). Parenthood and psychological well-being. Annual Review of Sociology, 13, 237–257.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Mead, G.H. (1934). Mind. self; and society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  34. Menaghan, E. G. (1989). Role changes and psychological well-being: Variations in effects by gender and role repertoire. Social Forces, 67, 693–714.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Merton, R. K. (1957). The role set: Problems in sociological theory. British Journal of Sociology, 8, 106–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Miller, M. L., Moen, P., & Dempster-McClain, D. (1991). Motherhood, multiple roles, and maternal well-being: Women of the 1950’s. Gender and Society, 5, 565–582.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pavalko, E. K., & Woodbury, S. (2000). Social roles as process: Caregiving careers and women’s health. Journal Of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 91–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Pearlin, L. I., Lieberman, M. A., Menaghan, E. G., & Mullan, J. T. (1981). The stress process. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 22, 337–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Pearlin, L. I. & Schooler, C. (1978). The structure of coping. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 19, 2–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pietromonaco, P.R., Manis, J., & Frohardt-Lane, K. (1986). Psychological consequences of multiple social roles. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 10, 373–381.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Reitzes, D. C., & Mutran, E. J. (1994). Multiple roles and identities: Factors influencing self-esteem among middle-aged working men and women. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 313–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Repetti, R. L., & Crosby, F. (1984). Gender and depression: Exploring the adult-role explanation. Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, 2, 57–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Rodgers, B., & Mann, S. L. (1993). Re-thinking the analysis of intergenerationaI social mobility: A comment on John W. Fox’s “Social class, mental illness, and social mobility.” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 34, 165–172.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Rosenberg, M. (1979). Conceiving the self. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  45. Rosenbcrg, M., & McCullough, B. S. (1981). Mattering: Inferred significance and mental health among adolescents. Research in Community and Mental Health, 2, 163–182.Google Scholar
  46. Ross, C. E., & Mirowsky, J. (1995). Does employment affect health? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 36, 230–243.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Scrpe, R.T. (1987). Stability and change in self: A structural symbolic interactionist explanation. Social Psychology Quarterly, 50, 44–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Serpe, R. T., & Stryker, S. (1987). The construction of self and reconstruction of social relationships. In E. Lawler & B. Markovsky (Eds.), Advances in group processes (pp. 41–66). Greenwich: JAI Press.Google Scholar
  49. Sieber, S. (1974). Toward a theory of role strain. American Sociological Review, 39, 567–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Spreitzer, E., Snyder, E. E., & Larson, D. L. (1979). Multiple roles and psychological well-being. Sociological Focus, 12, 141–148.Google Scholar
  51. Stephens, M. A. P., Franks, M. M., & Townsend, A. L. (1994). Stress and rewards in women’s multiple roles: The case of women in the middle. Psychology and Aging, 9, 45–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Stryker, S. (1980). Symbolic interactionism: A social structural version. Menlo Park: Benjamin/Cummings Publishing.Google Scholar
  53. Stryker, S., & Serpc, R. T. (1982). Commitment, identity salience, and role behavior: Theory and research example. In W. Ickes & E. Knowles (Eds.), Personality. roles, and social behavior (pp. 199–218). New York: Springer-Verlag.Google Scholar
  54. Stryker, S., & Serpe, R. T. (1994). Identity salience and psychological centrality: Equivalent, overlapping, or complementary concepts. Social Psychology Quarterly, 57, 16–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Stryker, S., & Burke, P. J. (2000). The past, present, and future of an identity theory. Social Psychology Quarterly, 63, 284–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Stryker, S., & Statham, A. (1985). Symbolic interaction and role theory. In G. Lindzey & E. Aronson (Eds.), Handbook of social psychology (3rd edition, pp. 311–378). New York: Random House.Google Scholar
  57. Thoits, P. A. (1983). Multiple identities and psychological well-being: Are formulation and test of the social isolation hypothesis. American Sociological Review, 48, 174–187.Google Scholar
  58. Thoits, P. A. (1986). Multiple identities: Examining gender and marital status differences in distress. American Sociological Review, 51, 259–272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Thoits, P. A. (1992). Identity structures and psychological well-being: Gender and marital status comparisons. Social Psychology Quarterly, 55, 236–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Thoits, P. A. (1994). Stressors and problem-solving: The individual as psychological activist. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 35, 143–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Thoits, P. A. (1995). Stress, coping and social support processes: Where are we? What next? Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Extra Issue, 53–79.Google Scholar
  62. Thoits, P. A. (2001). Identity changes in response to stress. Unpublished manuscript, Department of Sociology, Vanderbilt University.Google Scholar
  63. Thoits, P.A., & Hewitt, L. N. (2001). Volunteer workand well-being. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 42, 115–131.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Turner, R. J., & Gartrell, J. W. (1978). Social factors in psychiatric outcomes: Toward the resolution of interpretive controversies. American Sociological Review, 43, 368–382.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Turner, R. J., & Roszell, P. (1994). Psychosocial resources and the stress process. In W. R. Avison & I. H. Gotlib (Eds.), Stress and mental health: Contemporary issues and prospects for the future (pp. 179–210). New York: Plenum.Google Scholar
  66. Umbcrson, D., & Gove, W. R. (1989). Parenthood and psychological well-being: Theory, measurement, and stage in family life course. Journal of Family Issues, 10, 440–462.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Waldron, I., & Jacobs, J. A. (1989). Effects of multiple roles on women’s health: Evidence from a national longitudinal study. Women and Health, 15, 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peggy A. Thoits
    • 1
  1. 1.Vanderbilt UniversityNashville

Personalised recommendations