In contemporary American society there has been a growing trend toward nursing home residency for the aged. Up until the present there has been almost no attempt on the part of Sociology to study the sociological aspects of the life within such institutions.

A major objective of this study was to descriptively analyze the social life of nursing home residents. In order to do this, role theory was used as a tool for analysis and applied to the methods of unstructured observation and informal interviewing. The points of analysis were: role enactment, role expectations, and self-role congruency.

The research was carried out under the cooperation of the owner and management of Linda Valley Convalescent Homes in San Bernardino County, California. The study was conducted within a single nursing home over a three-month period.

The social life within this home was influenced by two significant patterns. The first and most influential pattern was the degrees of senility among the residents. Because psychiatry has dealth [sic] with the types of senility rather than the progression of the disorder, it was necessary to devise a means for defining and evaluating the levels of progression. Four degrees of senility were identified and the social consequences of each degree were studied. These degrees are: not senile, mildly senile, moderately senile, and extremely senile. The amount of social involvement and the number of social ties were found to decrease with the more senile residents. Social stratification was also related to the degrees of senility.

The second significant pattern was the lines which the social interaction tended to flow along. There were four different qualitative types of interaction notes: committed interaction, selective interaction, compatible interaction, and consequential interaction. These types of interaction were found to be closely related to the degrees of senility.

Other factors found to have some influence upon the individual resident's social life were: the degree of dependency, the amount of mobility, the length of residency, the sex of the resident, and the individuals religious preference.

In studying the social ties there were three "general" roles identified. These were the patient role, the comrade role, and the host role. The precedence of enactment of these roles was found to be related to the amount of time spent enacting the roles. The residents usually spent more time enacting the comrade role but it took the low precedence. The host role was enacted the least and took the highest precedence. The level of organismic involvement was higher for the comrade and host roles than for the patient role. The more senile residents usually enacted all three roles on a lower level of organismic involvement than the residents who were less senile.

Role expectations are composed of both rights and obligations. The rights of all three roles tended to help sustain the individual within the institution. The obligations of the roles were associated with adaptation and integration into a life of dependency and separation from their former roles.

The amount of role-self congruency was only important in the enactment of the patient role. The major factors here seemed to be: one's acceptance of the dependent role, the length of time having enacted the role, and the degree of senility.

LLU Discipline



Graduate School

First Advisor

Betty R. Stirling

Second Advisor

Anees A. Haddad

Third Advisor

Raymond O. West

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Level


Year Degree Awarded


Date (Title Page)




Library of Congress/MESH Subject Headings

Nursing Homes; Aged



Page Count

v; 75

Digital Format


Digital Publisher

Loma Linda University Libraries

Usage Rights

This title appears here courtesy of the author, who has granted Loma Linda University a limited, non-exclusive right to make this publication available to the public. The author retains all other copyrights.


Loma Linda University Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Collection Website



Loma Linda University. Del E. Webb Memorial Library. University Archives