bandwidth of social roles

In his later writing about Social Role Valorization, Dr. Wolf Wolfensberger taught about the concept of bandwidth applied to social roles, whether socially valued roles or socially devalued roles (SRV monograph, Wolfensberger, 1998, 3rd rev. ed. published in 2004, pp. 31-32). Social role bandwidth ranges from broad and life defining to narrow and circumscribed.

In an undergraduate course on human services which I am currently teaching, I shared with my students a little bit about this concept. They had some good questions and comments about it. As part of our discussion, I was trying to think of some questions we could ask ourselves to identify the bandwidth of an actual role that someone holds, whether a socially valued role or a socially devalued one. For some roles, this may be fairly easy. The valued role of employee is typically of a wide bandwidth for example. For some roles though it may not be as easy to get a sense of the bandwidth of a particular role, either in the abstract or of a particular role as actually held by a real person.

* Why might having a sense of role bandwidth be important when providing support to a devalued person, to an adult or child with impairments?

* What questions might we ask about a particular role (in the abstract or in a role actually held by a person or group) to get a sense of its bandwidth? Here are a few questions that we discussed. This is by no means an exhaustive list nor are each of these questions necessarily universally applicable. There may be exceptions of course.

where is the role carried out: many places, some places, few and very specific places? (a wider bandwidth role may be carried out in more places)

when/how often is the role carried out: every day, or week, or month, or year, or years? (a wider bandwidth role may be carried out more often)

how much time is spent in the role: alot, some, a little (a wider bandwidth role may take up more of a person or group’s time)

• how many activities are related to the role: many, some, only a few? (a wider bandwidth role may have more role related activities associated with it)

• how public (or private) is the role? (a wider bandwidth role may be more public)

• does the role have any secondary/derived roles? (e.g., a work role is typically a high bandwidth role that can lead to roles of friend, student, trainer, taxpayer, bank customer, co-worker, customer, boss, airline traveler, hotel guest, etc., etc.)

As always, please comment with other thoughts, suggestions or questions.

Marc Tumeinski


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