Socialization: the process by which, through contact with other human beings, one becomes a self-aware, knowledgeable human being, skilled in the ways of a given culture and environment Agencies of Socialization

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Socialization: the process by which, through contact with other human beings, one becomes a self-aware, knowledgeable human being, skilled in the ways of a given culture and environment
Agencies of Socialization
Agencies of socialization are structured groups or contexts within which significant processes of socialization occur. Such agencies also influence gender socialization: the learning of male roles versus female roles.

  • Primary socialization occurs in infancy and childhood and is the most intense period of cultural learning. Family is the main agent of

  • socialization during this phase.

  • Secondary socialization takes place later in childhood and into maturity. Main agents of socialization include schools, peer groups, organizations,

  • the media, and the workplace.

  • The family is the principal socializing agency of the child during infancy.

  • Schools are institutions in which students pursue a definite curriculum of subjects. Students also learn about certain subtle behavioral expectations

  • that will later be related to their job experience.

  • Peer relationships are social group attachments among children of similar age and with similar social backgrounds.

  • Mass media include printed documents, radio, television, recordings, and videos. Few societies in current times remain completely untouched by

  • mass media.

  • Work is an area that may require major adjustments in a person’s outlook or behavior.

Through the process of individualization, individuals learn about social roles—those socially defined expectations that a person in a given social position accepts and conforms to.

In terms of psychology, socialization is the process by which children and others adopt the behavior patterns of the culture that surrounds them.
Sociologists may distinguish between:

  • Primary socialization, which is the upbringing of a dependent infant and initiation into a mother tongue

  • Secondary socialization, which consists of training for specialist roles in society through education systems and social groups by building on the basic assumed primary socialization

Creating the Person
“Socialization” is the term sociologists use to describe the ways people learn to conform to their society’s norms, values, and roles. People develop their own unique personalities as a result of the learning they gain from parents, siblings, relatives, peers, teachers, mentors, and all of the other people who influence them throughout their lives. From the viewpoint of society as a whole, however, what is important about the process of socialization is that people learn to behave according to the norms of their culture. How people learn to behave according to cultural norms—that is, the way they learn their culture—makes possible the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. In this way the culture is “reproduced” in the next generation.
Socialization occurs throughout life as the individual learns new norms within new groups and in new situations. However, for purposes of analysis, socialization can be divided into three major phases. The first is primary socialization, which refers to all the ways a newborn individual gets molded into a social being—that is, into a growing person who can interact with others according to the expectations of society. Primary socialization occurs within the family and other intimate groups in the child’s social environment. Secondary socialization occurs in later childhood and adolescence, when the child leaves the family for schooling and comes under the influence of adults and peers outside the household and the immediate family. Adult socialization is a third stage, in which a person learns the norms associated with such new statuses as wife, husband, journalist, programmer, grandparent, or nursing-home patient.
There are a number of unresolved and highly controversial issues surrounding the study of socialization. First, what is the relative strength of biological—meaning, genetic— characteristics and of social influences in the creation of a person? This issue, often referred to as the nature/nurture problem, is raised most strikingly by a certain case involving triplets. Each of the three young men had been brought up in a different home, and yet each had similar mannerisms, similar—and very positive—outlooks on life, vibrant senses of humor, and even the same way of expressing ideas. This suggests that biological influences can play extremely important parts in forming an adult’s personality, especially when the basic qualities of love, security, and stead nurturance are present in the home environment, as they seem to have been for each of those triplets.
A second controversy in the study of socialization involves the question of how a person’s sense of self becomes established. What influences are exerted by others, and how do they form an individual’s sense of self? How do people learn to conform to society’s norms and to take the roles that society makes available to them? This process is often referred to as the social construction of the self.
Third, how do different social environments—such as that of an affluent suburban school or of a slum neighborhood or of a military boot camp—influence socialization? That is, how-do different social environments, especially the intimate environments of home and family, produce different kinds of people?
Fourth, what are the limits on what socialization can accomplish for individuals who experience extremes of deprivation and abuse, and what are the influences throughout the life of different agencies of socialization and different experiences with other people?
The fifth and final major subject is gender socialization, which refers to the ways we become the girls and boys and, gradually, the men and women of our society and culture. All of the controversies over whether behavior is innate or learned are intensified when we consider the differences and similarities in the socialization of males and females.
In this chapter we explore each of these questions in detail. We will be concerned primarily with the socialization of so-called normal members of society—people who are able to perform roles, to feel empathy for others, to express emotions and yet control feelings that are antisocial, to nurture others, and to raise children who will in turn be able to nurture and to take on new roles as they grow older. But the failures of socialization can also tell us a great deal about what is involved in creating the social being. The case of Charles Manson provides an example. Shortly before he was convicted for his part in one of the bloodiest multiple murders in American history, Manson had been...

Culture and Socialization
How individuals come to master language as well as develop the other capacities that make us human is referred to as socialization. Socialization is the process whereby helpless infants gradually become self-aware, knowledgeable people, skilled in the ways of the culture into which they are born. Socialization is not a kind of cultural programming whereby children passively absorb the influences they come into contact with. Even the most recent newborn infants have needs or demands that affect the behavior of those responsible for their care: a child is from the beginning an active being.
Socialization connects the different generations to one another. The birth of a child alters the lives of those responsible for that child’s upbringing—and those responsible parties themselves also therefore undergo new learning experiences. Parenting usually ties the activities of adults to children for the remainder of the lives of both. Older people remain parents when they become grandparents, of course, thus forgoing another set of relationships connecting different generations with each other. Although the process of cultural learning is much more intense in infancy and early childhood than it is later, learning and adjustment continue throughout the whole life cycle.
Agencies of Socialization
We can refer to the groups or social contacts within which significant processes of socialization occur as agencies of socialization. In all cultures, the family is the main socializing agency of a child during infancy. But at later stages of an individual’s life, other socializing agencies come into play.
The Family

In modem societies, most early socialization occurs within a small-scale family context. The mother is almost always the most important individual in the child’s early life. The majority of American children spend their early years with a parent or parents and one or two siblings. In other cultures, by contrast, aunts, uncles, and grandchildren are often part of the same household and help look after even young infants. And within United States society, there are many variations in the makeup of families. Some infants are brought up in single-parent households; some are cared for by two pairs of mothers and fathers (divorced parents and stepparents). A small number are brought up by homosexual parents. The range of contacts an infant experiences is thus by no means standard across or within cultures.

Peer Relationships

Another socializing agency is the peer group. Peer groups consist of children of a similar age. In some cultures, particularly small traditional societies, peer groups are formalized as age grades and normally confined to males. Often there are specific ceremonies or rites that mark the transition of men from one age-grade to another. Those within a particular age grade generally maintain close and friendly connections throughout their lives. A typical set of age grades consists of childhood, junior warriorhood, senior warriorhood, junior elderhood, and senior elderhood. Men move through these grades not as individuals but as whole groups.

The family’s importance in socialization is obvious, since the experience of the infant and young child is shaped more or less exclusively within the family. It is less apparent, especially to those who live in Western societies, how significant peer groups are. Yet even without formal age grades, children older than four or five years of age usually spend a great deal of time in the company of friends the same age. Given the high proportion of women now in the workforce, whose young children play together in day care centers, peer relations are even more important today than before.
Particularly in geographic areas without much mobility, individuals may be members of the same informal clique or may keep the same group of friends for all of their lives. Even when they do not, peer relations are likely to have a significant impact beyond childhood and adolescence. Informal groups of people of similar ages—at work and in other situations—are usually of enduring importance in shaping individuals’ attitudes and behaviors.

Another important socializing agency is the school. Schooling is a formal process, and students pursue a definite curriculum of subjects, yet schools are agencies of socialization in more-subtle respects. Children are expected to remain quiet in class, to be punctual for lessons, and to observe certain rules of school discipline. And they are required to accept and respond to the authority of the teaching staff. Teachers’ reactions also affect the expectations children have of themselves, and those expectations in turn become linked to the children’s eventual job experiences once they leave school. Peer groups are often formed at school, and the system of keeping children in classes according to age reinforces peer groups’ impact.

Mass media

Newspapers, periodicals, and journals flourished in the West from the early 1800s onward, but they were confined to a fairly small readership. It was not until a century later that such printed materials became part of the daily experience of mill ions of people, influencing their attitudes and opinions.

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