Editorial Board: Editor: George H. Conklin, North Carolina Central University Robert Wortham, Associate Editor, North Carolina Central University Board: Rebecca Adams, UNC-Greensboro Bob Davis, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Catherine Harris, Wake Forest University Ella Keller, Fayetteville State University Ken Land, Duke University Miles Simpson, North Carolina Central University William Smith, N.C. State University
Editorial Assistants John W.M. Russell, Technical Consultant
Volume 9, Number 2
Towards a Model of Identity and Role Exit
Jason S. Milne
Why do individuals leave a role? This question has both theoretical and practical implications. Ebaugh (1988) provides us with a model for understanding the process of leaving the role, and much has been written about how identities affect the performance of a role. But what has not been yet proposed is a theoretical construct for understanding how identities affect whether an individual will perform or exit a role.
This paper moves the literature toward a theoretical understanding of how identity processes affect role exit. I propose a model that takes into account how factors specific to a specific role (role-set factors) and social characteristics affect role exit. The model also examines how identity processes might affect how role-set factors and social characteristics affect whether or not a person exits the role. I then test this model using a sample of current and former soccer referees in the state of Virginia.
Most explanations of role exit are associated with one of two factors, role-set factors (factors associated with performing a specific role), or social characteristics (such as age, sex and marital status). These role-set factors measure aspects of the structure of a role of the cultural context in which the role occurs. Among the role-set factors, role conflict, or the inability to participate in two or more mutually exclusive roles (Merton 1957), is one of the more significant factors in predicting role exit. Role conflict predicts role exit for volunteers and paid employees, among others (Hopkins et al. 2010; Martinez and McMullin 2004; Settles 2004). Other significant role set factors include organizational change (Schellenberg 1996; Pratt 2001), expectations associated with the role (Rindfuss, Cooksey, and Sutterlin 1999), initial doubts about the role (Ebaugh 1988), and the support that an individual receives from others within the role (Magee 2003). Injuries and other critical events are the last role-set factors that influence role exit. In the case of injuries, those who are injured are more likely to exit a role than those who are not (Shamian et al. 2003).
Among the social characteristics, age may preclude some individuals from participating in a role as for example when a company mandates a retirement age (Settersten and Mayer 1997). Sex has also been shown to influence role exit, but this depends on the type or role and some of the characteristics of the person performing the role (Powell and Greenhaus 2010; Sicherman 1996). Finally, married individuals tend to exit paid roles at an earlier rate than non married individuals (Feldman 1994). But, married individuals are also more likely to remain in non-paid roles longer than non-married individuals (Rotolo and Wilson 2004).
A variety of identity-related factors also affect role exit. Much of the research focuses on how possessing a role-identity may affect whether an individual will continue or abandon a role (Stets and Harrod 2004). Identities are constantly changing; therefore identity processes rather than components (which imply stability) are examined as to how they affect whether an individual will retain or exit from the role identity. Support from significant individuals outside of the role such as family and friends (Ebaugh 1988; McPhail and Kirk 2006) and the rewards that one receives from participating in the role (McCall and Simmons 1978) influences the retention of a role identity. Similarly, costs associated with performing the role such as money (Chinman and Wandersman 1999) or burnout (Drake and Yadama 1996) influences the abandonment of an identity.
The identity processes of social comparisons and reflective appraisals also affect whether an individual will retain or abandon an identity. Individuals are likely to exit a role-identity if they compare themselves negatively against others who are participating in the role (Felson 1985). Similarly, reflected appraisals occur when the individual believes that others do not see him as performing the role adequately then the individual is likely to exit the role identity (Helgeson and Mickelson 1995).
Commitment and identity centrality are the final two identity processes that affect role exit. Two types of commitment affect role exit: interactional and affective commitment. Interactional commitment is the "extensivity (the number of persons as well as amount of time, energy, and resources involved) of the social network to which one relates by virtue of having that identity," while affective commitment involves the emotional connections that an individual has with the identity (Ervin and Stryker 2001). Identity centrality refers to how important an individual considers a role-identity to who they are as a person. The more important the role-identity is to a person's sense of who they are, the more likely the individual will continue in the role (Charng, Piliavin, and Callero 1988; Stryker and Serpe 1994).
Figure 1 presents a model of how identities affect role exit. The model assumes that role-set factors and social characteristics significantly affect role exit. It also predicts that identity processes affect role exit and mediate or moderate the relationship between role set factors, social characteristics, and role exit. The model has three panels that connect the role-set factors and social characteristics to role exit while also accounting for identity processes. Role-set factors are specific to soccer referees and include league and assignor support/treatment, organizational change, role conflict with the refereeing role, whether refereeing meets expectations, whether referees had initial doubts about refereeing, whether referees felt forced to referee, and whether referees had an injury. Social characteristics are gender, age, marital status of the referee, and how many children the referee has in a specific age group.
Panel 2 shows the identity processes of cognitive processes, rewards and costs, commitment, and identity salience. The cognitive processes include reflected appraisals, family support for the role, and social comparisons (Ervin and Stryker 2001). Reflected appraisals assume that identities are reflexive; individuals come to know who they are as individuals from how they think others in the situation see them (Felson 1985). Social comparisons involve comparing their role performance over and against others in the situation (Festinger 1954). Rewards can be intrinsic (refereeing is rewarding) or extrinsic (receiving a monetary reward, being invited to a special tournament, and/or being named a good referee for the league). Costs include the perceived financial impact of refereeing, burnout from refereeing, and abuse from others directed toward the referee.
Commitment is measured through interactional and affective commitment. Interactional commitment is the "extensivity (the number of persons as well as amount of time, energy, and resources involved) of the social network to which one relates by virtue of having that identity" while affective commitment involves the emotional connections that an individual has with the identity (Ervin and Stryker 2001). Referees are committed if they have a friend or family member involved in the role, if they undergo a significant amount of training, if they have a high grade level of the referee, and if they have been a referee for a significant length of time. Identity centrality refers to how important individuals consider a role to their identity (Stryker & Serpe 1994).
Panel 3 is the outcome of role exit.
Current and former soccer referees from Virginia serve as the population for this research. I chose soccer referees for two reasons. First, this is a population that I have access to. Second, data from the Virginia Soccer Referee database estimates that approximately 50% of all soccer referees leave the role within two years of initial certification. As such, this research explores those factors that may help the Virginia Soccer Referee organization better understand why individuals are leaving the role.
The survey samples
referees certified for the year 2005 and those who did not recertify for
2003, 2004, or 2005 from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District
of Columbia. Currently, there are nearly 5400 referees in the Virginia
and Washington D.C. certified by the USSF. Referees range in age
from 13 to 70.
After receiving Institutional Review Board permission, I constructed an online survey and then distributed this survey to a sample of soccer referees in Virginia. Of the 5,283 emails sent out with the survey, 2,511 were returned with invalid email addresses (about 48% of all emails). Only 2,772 emails were sent. Of those, 940 individuals responded. Therefore, of all emails initially sent out, 17.7% were returned completed. However, of those that actually went through to respondents' emails, 34% were returned completed.
The dependent variable asked whether or not an individual was currently certified as a soccer referee. Those who answered no were coded as former referees while those currently certified were coded as current referees.
The independent variables include the role-set factors, social characteristics and identity process. Among the role-set factors, four questions measured perceived league and assignor support and treatment. I created a scale by adding these two variables into a general measure of league support and treatment. The second two measures tapped perceived treatment and support from the assignor. Like the league support and treatment variable, I created a scale of assignor support/treatment. Two questions measured organizational change and role conflict, respectively. Questions regarding whether a referee has been injured, one's expectations regarding refereeing, and the doubts one had about refereeing finalized the role-set factors. Additionally, the social characteristics of sex, age, marital status, and number of children were controlled in this study.
Among the identity processes, the measure of reflected appraisals was adapted from Felson's (1985) measurement of whether children believe other children think they were attractive. Based upon these questions, I created a scale that combined the appraisals into one variable. This appraisals variable has a Chronbach's alpha of .80. The model controls for family support, social comparisons, perceptions of intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of refereeing, and the perceived financial impact of refereeing. I found that nearly 90% of all referees indicate that they had been physically abused. Since there was likely a problem with the question, it was eliminated from further analysis. Thus, the final analysis only included verbal abuse.
Measures of burnout were adapted from Erickson and Ritter's (2001) scale: I combined each of these variables into one "burnout" scale that captures the extent of burnout that the individual associates with refereeing. The Chronbach's alpha for the scale was .86. Commitment was measured as interactional commitment (Ervin and Stryker 2001) and measured by the grade level of the referee (referee grades are 1-8 with 8 being entry level and 1 being a FIFA referee), the amount of training that a referee receives, years as a referee, and whether a referee has a family member who plays soccer. Finally, measures of identity centrality focused on the importance of refereeing to the individual.
*p<.05; **p<.01; ***p<.001 (one-tailed test).
Models 1 through 4 of Table 1 presents logistic regression situating the different factors of the model on the role exit of soccer referees while also showing the mediating effect of various identity processes, commitment, and identity centrality on the model. Model 1 shows that the more organizational support, the less likely role exit will occur. Also, referees with role conflict were more likely to quit refereeing than those who did not experience role conflict. These relationships are strong predictors of role exit even when controlling for the social psychological processes, rewards and costs, commitment, and identity centrality in Models 2-4. The more referees felt forced to become a referee, the greater likelihood of role exit. Finally, injuries significantly lower the likelihood of role exit.
Controlling for identity processes in Model 2 explains the effect that being forced to become a referee and injuries have role exit. Age actually decreases the likelihood of role exit. But controlling for commitment in Model 3 explained the relationship between age and whether referees quit.
commitment and identity centrality actually made the effect of the number
of children referees had between the ages of 7 and 12 more significant.
But, the significance level did not change, implying that the social psychological
processes did not explain any of the effect that the number of children
referees had between the ages of 7 and 12 had on role exit. However,
when controlling for commitment and identity centrality, referees with
children between the ages 7 to 12, referees were still less likely to quit
refereeing. Interestingly, each additional child a referee has between
the ages of 13 to 18 only became and sustained significant when controlling
for commitment and identity centrality.
a significant predictor or role exit. Having a family member who
played actually increased the likelihood of role exit, however, more training
decreased the likelihood of role exit. Finally, the more important
refereeing is to the person (identity centrality), the less likely the
person will exit the role.
Ebaugh's (1988) process of role exit provides an excellent beginning framework for understanding the factors that explain role exit. This research continues in that tradition with a model of role exit. Role-set factors, some social characteristics, and identity factors do significantly affect role exit. As well identity factors serve to mediate the relationship between the role set factors, social characteristics and role exit.
Many of the conditions that Ebaugh (1988) and others identify as factors predicting role exit are consistent with the role-set factors, specific to soccer referees, that receive support in this model. For example, the support that individuals receive from significant others affects role exit (Ebaugh 1988). This finding is contrary to organizational literature that suggests that organizational support helps retain employees (Wilson and Musick 1997). However, identity processes control for organization support. Organizational support is less important for those who have an identity associated with the role.
Individuals who experience role conflict are more likely to quit than those who do not experience role conflict; even for referees who consider the refereeing identity important. Similarly, those who were forced into the role are more likely to exit the role than those who did not feel forced into the role. However, identity processes also controls for the effect that being forced to participate in the role has on role exit. While role exit theory already takes into account social support, it should now consider the importance of the identity processes of rewards and costs associated with the role in the determining whether individuals will exit the role.
Despite the importance
of injuries to predicting role exit, this effect goes away once the model
controls for rewards and costs and cognitive processes. Again, this
points to the importance of the identity variables to predicting role exit.
People can be injured, but if the person has an identity associated with
the role, then having an injury will not affect role exit.
The context of the role may explain how age affects role exit (Wacquant 1990). Older individuals may continue with low physical activity volunteering longer than they continue with high-impact volunteer activities (Miller et al. 1990). In terms of role exit theory then, while people will probably quit roles as the age, the context of the role and how committed individuals are to the role may decrease the likelihood of exiting the role.
Finally, having children between the ages of 7 and 12 decreases the likelihood of role exit. Here, those young children are probably involved in the role in some way. Many children start playing soccer between these ages. As such, many parents get involved in role by becoming a referee. In terms of role exit theory, having members who have young children also involved in the role may prevent role exit.
The identity variables of rewards and costs as well as social comparisons and reflected appraisals are mediating variables rather than variables that directly affect role exit. Interestingly, the only cost that was significant was verbal abuse and it was opposite of that expected. Perhaps referees enter into the role understanding that a certain amount of abuse comes with the position. Therefore, many referees expect it. Similarly, with age and experience, referees could develop the ability to deal with the abuse. Since referees expect that abuse may occur, it does not affect their perceptions of the role and subsequently does not affect role exit. If there are expectations of potential costs such as verbal abuse, the effect that the cost has on role exit may be minimal.
Commitment has additive and mediating effects on role exit. The amount of training that a person receives is an investment in the role. Literature suggests that more training helps to further tie individuals to a role (Jamison 2003; Martin 2003).
Additional training takes time and financial resources. Only those who want to continue with the role and potentially advance seek out extra training. Similarly, additional training often involves coming into contact with others involved in the role. This contact creates relationships between individuals involved in the role who could potentially use each other as a means of support and encouragement (Ebaugh 1988). To seek out more training is to further strengthen the tie between the individual and the role, or in terms of identity theory, to strengthen the commitment that an individual has to the role.
But, then why does having a family member who is in the role have the opposite effect hypothesized? Having a family member in the role indicates one's commitment to the role. However, the role one is committed to is as a supporter of the family member's soccer player. If individuals are committed to supporting the role of the other person, they may be less likely to be committed to one of their own roles. These two roles are mutually exclusive; to do one means to reduce or abandon the other. Therefore, having family members in another role may take the time and energy away from participating in another role; committing the person to the significant other doing their own role rather than to the roles that they participate in. Future research should consider the effect that commitment has on the role exit process both directly and as a mediating factor. Role exit research should consider the role that mutually exclusive roles play in determining whether or not a person will exit a role.
findings provide support for the importance of identity centrality in explaining
role exit but not as a mediating variable. If the role is not important
to the individual, then he or she is less likely to continue with the role.
Future research on identity theory should consider identity centrality
as an additional factor influencing the role exit process.
This model moves the theory of role exit towards a comprehensive model that takes into various factors affecting the role exit process. Focusing on role-set factors and situating identity processes as explanatory as well as mediating factors, this research suggests that including identity factors in a model of role exit may significantly increase the explanatory power of any role exit model. While recognizing that most roles are context specific, future research should continue to advance the model of role exit, focusing on role-set factors and identity processes that influence the model.
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