Skip to main content

Full text of "ERIC ED028971: The Lay Image and the Professional Role: An Exploration of Discontinuity in the Process of Anticipatory Socialization."

See other formats




ED 028 971 sp 002 330 

By'Warnecke, Richard B.; Riddle, Dorothy K. 

The Lay Image and the Professional Role: An Exploration of Discontinuity in the Process of Anticipatory 

Pub Date 168] 

Note" 1 Ip. 

EDRS Price MF-S025 HC-S0.65 

Descriptors'*Professional Occupations, *Role Perception, ^Socialization 

Discontinuity in changing from one status or role to another lessens with 
knowledge of the new role (gained through observation or indirect sources such as a 
counselor) and acquisition of its behavioral characteristics prior to formalization of 
the change (anticipatory socialization). This theory presumes that the image or role 
expectation upon which anticipatory socialization is based is accurate. In 
professional roles such as nursing or teaching, however, conflicting images exist: the 
professional image, which accurately indicates role duties; and the public, which 
reflects the dramatic and sterotypic role aspects and may also be outdated. A study 
of teacher interns revealed that those who made the most successful transition from 
student to teacher entered the intern program with the clearest and most accurate 
image of the teacher, based on teachers whom they knew personally as well as 
professionally. Research on socialization for change is needed as it relates to 
educational and sociological problems such as urban and vocational education. (UP) 

'SPoOiTi o 




1 o 

; CD 









The Lay Image and the Professional Roles An 
Exploration of Discontinuity in the Process of 
Anticipatory Socialization 

Richard B. wamecke 

State University of New York at Buffalo 


Dorothy K. Riddle 

Tertiary Education Research Center 
University of New South Wales 




An issue of some interest in the theories of role socialization and 

status transition has been the problem of role conflict which arises when 

there is discontinuity between the expectations associated with the new status 


and those of the former status. Most traditional perspectives on the issue of 
role socialization for change in status tend to make the implicit assumption 
that there is consensus within the society , and particularly among the agents 
of socialization, as to the legitimate content of the role expectations assoc- 
iated with the anticipated status. Within this context, conflict which arises 
from the change in status is viewed as the result of the need of the individual 
to change his expectations to meet the needs of the role he will perform in 
his new status. 

From this point of view, the function of the rites of passage is to 

facilitate from both a social and legal standpoint the passage of the individual 


between two potentially discontinuous statuses. Of particular importance in 
these rites is the liminal or margin phase. In this phase the novice learns 
the norms, values and expectations which enable him to perform successfully in 
his new status. After this formal socialization phase, the novice is expected 
to return to full activity in the society with both the social legitimacy and 
the knowledge essential to perform his new role. 


The studies of the American Soldier during World War II added an important 
insight to theory related to the process of status transition. As the investig- 
ators examined changes in status among the military, it was noted that often 
those who successfully assumed new statuses began to acquire the necessary 
behavioral characteristics and role orientations prior to the time of the 
formalization of the change. The recognition of the process of anticipatory 
socialization added much to the traditional theories of status transition. 

Like earlier theories, it assumed that the content of role expectations assoc- 
iated with the anticipated status was generally agreed upon by both the 

incumbent and the socializing agents. However , it was assumed that much of 

the discontinuity resulting from a sudden change in status would disappear. 

Discontinuity would be lessened because with anticipatory socialization the 

change would occur gradually and well before the status actually had to be 

assumed. This approach therefore tended to de-emphasize the importance of 

the formal rites of passage which earlier theories assumed would aid in the 


process of status transition. 

Theories of status transition which incorporate the idea of anticipatory 

socialization assume that the incumbent will have an accurate and complete 


picture of the role expectations associated with the anticipated state. 

Access to such an image makes it necessary that the incumbent will have some 
prior contact with the role either through observation of someone who performs 
it or through second hand sources of information such as parent, a counselor 
or some literature. What ever the source, the continuity which is implied 
in this theory is dependent upon the articulation between the expectations 
developed in anticipation of the status change and the expectations which 
will be made of the novice once the new status is assumed. 

For many of the major roles in society the formal socialization process . 
remains important, at least as a source of public legitimation. For other 
roles the process of formal education is a necessity because of the kinds 
of special knowledge which is needed in their performance • For these latter 
roles, formal education inevitably includes the transmission of certain 
attitudes and values. One status in this category is the profession. The 
professions, because of their unique role in the society, tend to have 
associated with them a well-defined and highly articulated set of values 
and associated norms. They tend to have a well-defined body of knowledge. 

And finally, they tend to provide a particular set of rewards for their 
members. These elements, which define the content of the professional role. 

- 3 - 


are transmitted through formal socialization in the professional school. 

Because of the important function which the professions perform for the 

society, they generally have a well-defined public image. This public image 

serves to legitimize the role which the professional performs and it tends 

to give him power in certain areas of activity. However, the aspects of 

the professional role which are incorporated in this public or lay image 

are often based upon those parts of the professional role which are publicly 

visible in the professional's activity. Often too, the lay image of the 

professional role tends to incorporate only the most dramatic or romantic 

components of the professional's activity. This results in a stereo-typed 

image of what the professions do. Finally, the lay image often reflects the 

public's impression of those who typically assume the role, and thus it 

often incorporates ascriptive characteristics associated with some other 


social category such as "women", or "men". 

For whatever reason the public or lay image often fails to fully 
reflect the components of the role which are the most important within the 
profession. It is also slow to reflect internal changes which occur in the 
professional role definition, since these often challenge the popular concep- 
tion of the role. Anticipatory socialization which is based upon this public 
image of the profession is often the source of discontinuity of a sort different 
from that which has been traditionally the concern of theories of status 
transition. Discontinuity in the present sense arises, not because of the 
difficulty on the part of the novice in changing to meet role expectations, 
but precisely because the novice has changed to meet these expectations. He 
has changed, however, to accomodate a role which he only perceives in part. 

Thus role conflict in this situation arises not because of a problem of the 
incumbent but becaui 3 the social system has failed to provide an accurate 
image of the role for which anticipatory socialization has occurred. 


This discontinuity is quite apparent in the findings of a study of 

dropouts from a collegiate nursing program which was done by the senior author 

of this paper. Because of changes in the organization of health care and the 


treatment of illness# nursing has undergone a drastic change in role definition. 

As a result# the central values of the traditional nursing role# which emphasized 

direct care and treatment of the patient# and gave the occupation a pre-eminent 

place among the "typically feminine" occupations, have been redefined to 

incorporate in the role the activity of directing others in the provision of 

this care. Thus the internal definition of the nursing role as transmitted 

through the professional program of nursing education tends to emphasize the 

supervision and direction of the activities of auxiliary personnel# the ability 

to perform highly complex techniques# and the increasing responsibility for 


the maintenance of written records and the standardization of procedures. 

The alternative to this bureaucratically oriented role is not the traditional 

role of direct patient care, but the training of nursing students in a school 

of nursing. As one study of nursing education notes rather plaintively: 

It is a fact of everyday experience that by and large, the more 
educated the nurse becomes, the further away from actual patient 
care she gets. She may, and usually does feel guilty, but she 
has to choose# and her choice implies the sacrifice of what is 
found to be less desirable. H 

This change in role definition has also introduced changes into the 
reward system. No longer are the major rewards in nursing associated with 
the giving of good patient care. Since the patient-centered context of 
nursing is becoming less and less part of the nursing role# the nurses 
rewards are now associated with what most nurses do. Hence they come 
primarily for the performance as a good bureaucrat or administrator. They 


are typically in the form of increased prestige# promotion and greater 


responsibility# in the administrative heirarchy. 


- 5 - 

However, the lay or public ideology associated with nursing continues 

to emphasize the traditional nursing role* In the public image* and even 

in the ideology of nursing, the welfare of the patient is best served by 

direct contact with the nurse in a highly personal and nurturant relationship. 

The nursing role is viewed, in short, as an extension of the mother role and 

the patient is romantically seen as her helpless child. This view is retained 

by many practicing nurses outside of the professional schools where the novice 

is socialized. Thus nursing has been described as possessing a "blurred self- 

image.” One result of this is the presence of an ideology which emphasizes 
the values of patient contact and service but which actually rewards those 
who move furthest from this ideal. 

The impact of the discontinuity between the public image and the professional 
definition of the nursing role is quite clear in the data provided by the drop- 
outs. Among those who dropped out, there was a clear rejection of commitment 
to a professional role orientation. This rejection was combined with a 
frustration with the absence of opportunity for self-expression. Moreover, 
although the importance of nursing course work was recognized, the dropouts 
felt that the emphasis with which it was presented in this nursing program was 
not consistent with this image of nursing. Finally, there was a clear indication 
that those who dropped out had experienced some anticipatory socialization from 
contact with those performing in medically related occupational roles. 

By contrast, the student who did not drop out did not experience anticip- 
atory socialization from others in medically related roles. They tended to 
be committed to a career as professional nurses and did not feel that nursing 

education denied them the opportunity for self-expression. Moreover, although 


they did not place as much importance on nursing course work per se as did 



the dropouts, they tended to feel that the presentation of it in the professional 
school was appropriate to their goals. 

It is of further interest to note that among the dropouts twenty assumed 
the most nurturant role society of fers— marriage, nineteen enrolled in non- 
professional ly oriented nursing programs, and an additional twenty-one chose 
other service oriented occupations such as school teaching, social work, 
physical therapy or medicine. 

The nursing school itself recognizes the impact of anticipatory social- 
ization based on the public image of nursing. When the faculty were questioned 
concerning the criteria which were used in selecting new students for admission, 
most rejected such criteria as knowledge of nursing, practical experience and 
desire to be of service. The criteria most chosen were intelligence, personality, 
and leadership. 

Clearly, those students who dropped out of the professional nursing program 
experienced conflict between their image of nursing developed through anticipatory 
socialization and the image of nursing held by the professional nursing school. 

It is clear too that the professional nursing school recognizes the negative 
impact of such an image and tends to emphasize criteria which promote articu- 
lation between the two images. In large measure discontinuity is the result 
of the public stereo-type of the nurse and the nursing role. However, it is 
also a factor of the change which has occurred in the content of the nursing 
role, change which has failed to reach the level of ideology as reflected in 
the value system of the larger society. 

Dorothy Riddle has recently completed a study of role socialization among 
teacher interns. The data which resulted from this study point to the existence 
of the same type of conflict in teacher education. However, her findings provide 
more concrete evidence of the conditions under which successful anticipatory 
socialization facilitates the transition from layman to professional. 




In her study. Riddle compared teacher interns in terms of their self- 
evaluation of the clarity with which they viewed their roles as teachers. 

Her findings indicated that teacher interns who most successfully made the 
transition from student to teacher arrived in the intern program with the 
clearest image of the teacher role. Furthermore, this role clarity was the 
result of an accurate image of the teaching role developed through anticipatory 
socialization. Although the clarity with which the image of the teaching role 
was perceived made the process of formal education more meaningful to these 
interns, they did not need to learn how to behave as teachers. They could 
thus concentrate on the content which was offered in the program. Riddle's 
evidence indicated that these students were better able to see the relevance 
of the course work for their future roles, since the expectations of these 
roles were clear to them. 

The anticipatory socialization experienced by the interns with high 
role clarity differed from that experienced by both the dropouts from the 
student nursing program and that experienced by the interns with low role 
clarity in two respects. First, the teacher interns had used as their role 
models teachers whom they knew in many contexts both inside and outside the 
classroom. Thus they were able to develop a realistic image of the teaching 
role and one which reflected both the public and professional orientations. 
Second, the high role clarity interns made the decision to become teachers 
on the basis of criteria intrinsic to the teacher role. 

By contrast, the low role clarity interns had no clear image of the 
teaching role. Their image seemed to reflect the popular stereo-type assoc- 
iated with the public image. Their view of the teacher was restricted largely 
to the classroom situation. Moreover, the low role clarity interns made the 
decision to become teachers on the basis of criteria which were largely extrinsic 

to the teacher role. 

- 8 - 

The discussion in this paper relates to only one aspect of a more 
general problem which we find with the theoretical perspectives dealing 
with role socialization and status transition. The major difficulty associated 
with these theories lies in their assumption that the social system is stable 
and that change, when it occurs, is immediately visible to all segments of 
the system. It is clear that such an assumption is untenable in most com- 
plex social systems. Therefore it is surprising to us that despite a 
"v;ndous amount of concern with social change in both the fields of 

Sociology and Education there has been little research which deals with 

15 16 

socialisation for change. Over a decade ago David Riesman and Alex Inkeles 
published some tentative findings in this area, but since then little has 
been done. The problem is, we believe, a pressing one. It relates to prob- 
lems of urban education, occupational and vocational education and many other 
areas which touch jointly on the two disciplines. 



■1-Ruth Benedict , "Continuities and Discontinuities in Cultural Conditioning , " 
Psychiatry , May, 1963, pp. 161-67., Hughes, Everett C., "Dilemmas and 
Contradictions in Status," American Journal of Sociology , March, 1945, 
pp. 353-59., Mirra Komarovsky, "Cultural Contradictions and Sex Roles," 

American Journal of Sociology , November, 1946, pp. 184-189., Talcott Parsons, 

"Age and Sex in the Social Structure of the United States," American 
Sociological Review , October, 1942, pp. 604-616. 

^Victor W. Turner, "Myth and Symbol," International Encyclopedia of the 
Social Sciences , Volume V, pp. 576-81. 

3 Samuel A. Stouffer, et^ al^. , The American Soldier: Adjustment to Army 

Life, Volume I, Studies in the Social Psychology of World War II 
(Princeton University Press: Princeton, N. J., 1949). 

^Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure , Rev. Ed. (Glencoe: 

The Free Press, 1967) pp. 384-385. 

5 Ibid , pp. 336-354. 

^Bernard Barber, "Some Problems in the Sociology of Professions," Daedalus , 

92 (Fall, 1963) pp. 669-688. 

7 Lyle V. Saunders, "The Changing Role of the Nurse," American Journal of 
Nursing, 54 (1954) p. 1097. Leonard Reissman and John Rohrer (eds.) Change 
and Dilemma in the Nursing Profession (New York: Putnam, 1957) passim . 

Robert W. Habenstein and Edwin A. Christ, Prof essionalizer , Traditionalizer , 
and Utilizer (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1955) passim . 

Kenneth D. Benne and Warren Bennis, "Confusion and Conflict in Nursing," 

American Journal of Nursing , 59 (1959) p. 380. Ida H. Simpson, "Patterns of 
Socialization in the Professions: The Case of the Student Nurse," (Durham, 

North Carolina: Duke University, 1960) pp. 2-4 and passim . Mimeograph. 

^Richard B. Warnecke, Dropouts from Collegiate Nursing: A Typological Study 

of Role Conflict (Durham, North Carolina: Duke University, 1966) Unpublished 


^Esther Lucille Brown, Nursing for the Future (New York: Russell Sage Founda- 

tion, 1948) p. 75. Habenstein and Christ, pp. 1-5, Reissman and Rohrer, p. 91. 

■^Ronald G. Corwin, Marvin J* Taves and Eugene Haas, "Professional Disillusionment, 
Nursing Research 10 (Summer, 1961) pp.. 141-44 

■^Madeline Clemence Vaillot, Commitment to Nursing , (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 

1963) p. 202. 

12 Bernard Barber, "Some Problems in the Sociology of Professions." 

^ 3 Benne and Bennis, p. 380. 

h • 


- 2 - 

14 Dorothy K. Riddle, Intern Teachers' Experie nced Anticipatory Socialization , 
(Buffalo: State University of New York at Buffalo, 1968) Unpublished Doctoral 


15 David Riesman, The Lonely Crowd (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1950) 

16 Alex Inkeles, "Social Change and Social Character: The Role of Parental 

Mediation," The Journal of Social Issues XI (1955) pp. 12-22.