The Role Diagram for Clarifying Parenting Issues
A Mother and a Father have difficulty agreeing on their parenting of
their eleven year old son. They want to explore these differences
before he hits his teenage years. Describe how you would use the
role diagram as one of the instruments for clarifying both the roles
and their feelings about one another as parents. An answer suggested by
Ann E. Hale.
Use of the Role Diagram in a Parenting Session
One of the sociometric methods for exploring the relationship two
people have with the same person, which also has a similar role
repertoire, is the bilateral role diagram. The practitioner
assists the parents in identifying the roles they have in relation to
their son, and they go over the notational system which is designed to
elicit here and now comments. The notational system has a specific line
positive now, feels more positive now, and feels less positive now.
Also, the person can identify feels negative now, feels more negative
now, feels less negative now. There is a way to note indifferent,
neutral, and unexamined.
The intruction to each person is to:
(1) draw a line from your place on the role diagram
and indicate the feelings you have about yourself in one of the
specific roles you share as parents This is followed by (a) a
line you draw from your son toward you in the role, showing your
perception of how your son feels about you in the role., and (b) a line
drawn from your spouse toward you in the role showing your perception
of how he/she may feel about you in that role; and
( c ) a line drawn
from your spouse toward the role, showing your perception of how you
imagine he/she feels about him/herself in this role in relation to your
Each person completes the role diagram, and identifies all these
perceptions they have. Next, the facilitator helps each partner
focus on one role at a time, telling one another the perception they
have and having an opportunity to hear and respond to the
perceptions. Having a chance to clarify, to be free of
assumptions, can smoothe the way toward clarity, communication and help
them prepare for the future. One of the benefits of this approach
is that it broadens the focus the partners have to the larger role picture,
and not just those which are problematic. Seeing the larger picture
helps the partners stay invested and to accept areas in the roles which
work well and are mutually beneficial.
Moving into action: It is possible to go back to a time and set a scene
on stage when the feelings began to change. Have the parents look for
an opportunity to share more from the role and to make their own
interventions with each other. What needs to happen to change this
statement or perception you have on paper to “feels more positive
now”? Reverse roles with your son. “From his role, speak to each
parent and share what for you as the son would “feel more positive now.”
The exploration can include use of the mirror (show me so I can see
what it is I am doing). It can use the role training model: show me a
different way while I play you, or his role.
Since one of the motivations for having this session, involves
anticipating parenting of a teenager, the practitioner can help the
parents set a scene in the future where they support one another in a
specific role interaction which may involve conflict. Each peson
takes action steps to have an outcome both can appreciate.
The exploration can end with a sharing and honoring each other as parents.
1 Ann E. Hale (1985) “The Role Diagram Expanded”
Chapter 5 in Conducting Clinical Sociometric Explorations: a
manual for psychodramatists and sociometrists. Roanoke, VA, Royal
Publishing Co., pages113 - 142. The bilateral role diagram is
illustrated on page 142.. (Currently available from the Toronto Centre
for Psychodrama http://www.tcps.on.ca/books.html)
2 Hale (1985) p. 129.
3 For another view of role analysis see: Max Clayton
(1994) "Role Theory and its Application in Clinical Practice" inPsychodrama Since Moreno: Innovations in Theory and Practice. London: Routledge, pages 121 - 144.