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Role Failure

Role failure is painful, with physical or mental illness a common result. In Latin American societies, a folk illness called ousts is reported to be common among people whose role performance is inadequate [O'Neil, 1975]. In a stable, well-integrated society with a high proportion of ascribed roles, most of these roles will be filled successfully because people will have been prepared for them since earliest childhood. Most roles can be filled successfully by nearly any person who has been adequately prepared. But in a rapidly changing and less well integrated society such as ours, where we cannot predict all adult roles in advance and where discontinuities limit role preparation, a good deal of role failure is inevitable. Some persons fail in their roles as adults, never developing adult responsibility and self-control but continuing to act "childish" at all ages. Every society ascribes how "men" and "women" should act, but not all of us act as we are expected to act. Some are sex-role failures, such as tile woman who hates men/so fiercely she cannot work comfortably beside them, or the man who fears women so greatly he cannot leave the protection of his mother.

Even more persons fail in some of their achieved roles. Some fail to' achieve the role they seek-the desired degree, long-sought admission to graduate school, the occupation of one's ambitions, the artistic calling one cannot resist, the passionate response of a desired lover, Various surveys have shown that roughly one-half of American teenagers aspire to a professional career, but since there is room in the professions for only about one in six workers, most of these teenagers will be disappointed. And many who achieve the role they crave will fail to fill it successfully. Many husbands and wives either fail to choose suitable marital partners or fail in their mar roles The result is either divorce or a lifetime of frustration. Many parents' fail to socialize their children successfully. Only a few in any occupation or profession can be spectacularly successful, .because (or each germinal there must be many subordinates. Those who seek the highest levels.of excellence in a particular role are usually frustrated,  If fail of kinds an degrees keep swelling .the ranks of unhappy people.

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