Parson’s sick role is credited with bringing a revolution into modern understanding of health, sickness and the “sick role”. For years, many researchers have pointed out towards the usefulness of Parson’s theory on the “sick role”. Though shrouded with controversy and often validly criticized, the theory has still managed to create a platform for other researches relating to illness, health and the sick role. It has, without doubt, helped mankind understand human nature and biology better. Talcott Parson modeled the theory in the 1950’s.
He offered the world a new lens to look at human health from dealing explicitly with medical sociology. The main difference that Parson offered was related to the difference between biomedical models and medical sociology models. Parson stated that when a person is sick or ill, he is playing a role in society. This role is characterized as a deviant behavior under the functionalism school of thought. During this time, the patient temporarily observes behavior that is deviant but medically sanctioned.
Biomedical models depict illnesses as a biological malfunction due to some virus, or failure of the mechanical functioning of the body. The basis of Parson’s views was a combination of ideas used from prominent researchers such as Sigmund Freud and Max Weber. Both these researchers created a base of knowledge which Parson used to develop his own theory on the sick role. The paper analyzes in detail Parsons theory on the sick role and then further explains how it has helped health and sociology.
At the same time, it further analyzes the sociological aspects of health and illness in society. The “Sick Role”: According to Parson, the “sick role” is not just when an individual becomes sick. It is not a “state” or condition alone, in reality, the individual is actually playing a role in society of deviant behavior. Parson used Freud’s relationship theories to develop his own patient-doctor relationship patterns. Parson claimed that the sick role is a deviant form of behavior that human beings take part in for the extra attention and of course to recover from illness.
These theories were developed using Freud’s models and revealed that the relationship is quite similar to that of the parent and child. Similarly, the theory that Parson developed also took aspects of the functionalist perspective and the teachings of Max Weber. According to Weber, there are three different types of authority; charisma, traditions, and last, legal and rational authority. Doctors enjoy credibility by profession and legal authority to treat patients. Thus, it often becomes binding on patients to listen to their doctors. These relationships develop and determine the sick role.
The functionalist perspective also states that people who are sick and act the way they do so that they are not responsible for their behavior or position. Their duties and obligations become null and void during their time as being “sick” and are excused on account of health. However, this allows patients and other people to take a break from everyday routine and enjoy a little attention from their close relationships. Parson’s theory in detail: According to Parson, the sick role employs 4 major characteristics and expectations. These expectations can be categorized in rights and duties.