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In Sociology, master status is the social position which is the primary identifying characteristic of an individual. It is defined as "a status that has exceptional importance for social identity, often shaping a person's entire life" 
The master status is often the most important constituent in the architecture of an individual’s identity. Common master statuses are those of race or ethnicity, sex, sexual orientation, physical ability, age, economic standing, religion or spirituality, and education. Others include that of being a parent, child, or sibling; being employed or unemployed; and being disabled or mentally ill. It is not realistic to deny that as a society we label individuals based on their most prominent characteristic in this respect, such as the "old loon", the "blonde bimbo", etc.
In perception, an individual’s master status supersedes her/his other identifying traits; for example, if a woman feels that her role as a mother is more important than her role as a woman, a daughter, a wife, an American, and a novelist, she is more likely to label herself first as a mother and to identify with other women who label themselves as such. Even more so, an individual's master status dominates her/his perception by others and their behaviour towards him/her. More than other aspects of the status set, the master status affects how the individual behaves and how others behave with respect to her or him in almost every given situation.
- Macionis. Sociology 7th Canadian an individual's entire collection of statuses, at a specific period of time. Over a lifetime, a person regularly exchange, relinquish, and take on many different statuses.
- Gordon Marshall, ed., A Dictionary of Sociology (2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), p. 399-400.
- Macionis, John J (2005). Sociology. 10th ed. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education. 142.
- Macionis, Gerber, John, Linda (2010). Sociology 7th Canadian Ed. Toronto, Ontario: Pearson Canada Inc.. pp. 157.
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