The Sociology of Socialization

Edited by Matthew A. McIntosh
Brewminate Editor-in-Chief

1 – The Role of Socialization

1.1 – Introduction

Socialization prepares people for social life by teaching them a group’s shared norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors.

1.1.1 – Overview

The role of socialization is to acquaint individuals with the norms of a given social group or society.  It prepares individuals to participate in a group by illustrating the expectations of that group.

Socialization is very important for children, who begin the process at home with family, and continue it at school.  They are taught what will be expected of them as they mature and become full members of society.  Socialization is also important for adults who join new social groups. Broadly defined, it is the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members.

1.1.2 – Three Goals of Socialization

Socialization in School: Schools, such as this kindergarten in Afghanistan, serve as primary sites of socialization.

In his 1995 paper, “Broad and Narrow Socialization: The Family in the Context of a Cultural Theory,” sociologist Jeffrey J. Arnett outlined his interpretation of the three primary goals of socialization. First, socialization teaches impulse control and helps individuals develop a conscience. This first goal is accomplished naturally: as people grow up within a particular society, they pick up on the expectations of those around them and internalize these expectations to moderate their impulses and develop a conscience. Second, socialization teaches individuals how to prepare for and perform certain social roles—occupational roles, gender roles, and the roles of institutions such as marriage and parenthood. Third, socialization cultivates shared sources of meaning and value. Through socialization, people learn to identify what is important and valued within a particular culture.

The term “socialization” refers to a general process, but socialization always takes place in specific contexts. Socialization is culturally specific: people in different cultures are socialized differently, to hold different beliefs and values, and to behave in different ways. Sociologists try to understand socialization, but they do not rank different schemes of socialization as good or bad; they study practices of socialization to determine why people behave the way that they do.

1.2 – Nature vs. Nurture: A False Debate

Is nature (an individual’s innate qualities) or nurture (personal experience) more important in determining physical and behavioral traits?

The nature versus nurture debate rages over whether an individual’s innate qualities or personal experiences are more important in determining physical and behavioral traits.

In the social and political sciences, the nature versus nurture debate may be compared with the structure versus agency debate, a similar discussion over whether social structure or individual agency (choice or free will) is more important for determining individual and social outcomes.

Identical Twins: Because of their identical genetic makeup, twins are used in many studies to assess the nature versus nurture debate.

Historically, the “nurture” in the nature versus nurture debate has referred to the care parents give to children. But today, the concept of nurture has expanded to refer to any environmental factor – which may arise from prenatal, parental, extended family, or peer experiences, or even from media, marketing, and socioeconomic status. Environmental factors could begin to influence development even before it begins: a substantial amount of individual variation might be traced back to environmental influences that affect prenatal development.

The “nature” in the nature versus nurture debate generally refers to innate qualities. In historical terms, nature might refer to human nature or the soul. In modern scientific terms, it may refer to genetic makeup and biological traits. For example, researchers have long studied twins to determine the influence of biology on personality traits. These studies have revealed that twins, raised separately, still share many common personality traits, lending credibility to the nature side of the debate. However, sample sizes are usually small, so generalization of the results must be done with caution.

The nature versus nurture debate conjures deep philosophical questions about free will and determinism. The “nature” side may be criticized for implying that we behave in ways in which we are naturally inclined, rather than in ways we choose. Similarly, the “nurture” side may be criticized for implying that we behave in ways determined by our environment, not ourselves.

Of course, sociologists point out that our environment is, at least in part, a social creation.

1.3 – Sociobiology

Sociobiology examines and explains social behavior based on biological evolution.

Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution. It attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology, evolution, zoology, archaeology, population genetics, and other disciplines. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is very closely allied to the fields of Darwinian anthropology, human behavioral ecology, and evolutionary psychology. While the term “sociobiology” can be traced to the 1940s, the concept didn’t gain major recognition until 1975 with the publication of Edward O. Wilson’s book, Sociobiology: The New Synthesis.

Edward O. Wilson: E. O. Wilson is a central figure in the history of sociobiology.

Sociobiologists believe that human behavior, like nonhuman animal behavior, can be partly explained as the outcome of natural selection. They contend that in order to fully understand behavior, it must be analyzed in terms of evolutionary considerations. Natural selection is fundamental to evolutionary theory. Variants of hereditary traits, which increase an organism’s ability to survive and reproduce, are more likely to be passed on to subsequent generations. Thus, inherited behavioral mechanisms that allowed an organism a greater chance of surviving and reproducing in the past are more likely to survive in present organisms.

Following this evolutionary logic, sociobiologists are interested in how behavior can be explained as a result of selective pressures in the history of a species. Thus, they are often interested in instinctive, or intuitive behavior, and in explaining the similarities, rather than the differences, between cultures. Sociobiologists reason that common behaviors likely evolved over time because they made individuals who exhibited those behaviors more likely to survive and reproduce.

Many critics draw an intellectual link between sociobiology and biological determinism, the belief that most human differences can be traced to specific genes rather than differences in culture or social environments. Critics also see parallels between sociobiology and biological determinism as a philosophy underlying the social Darwinian and eugenics movements of the early 20th century as well as controversies in the history of intelligence testing.

1.4 – Deprivation and Development

Social deprivation, or prevention from culturally normal interaction with society, affects mental health and impairs child development.

Maternal Deprivation: The idea that separation from the female caregiver has profound effects is one with considerable resonance outside the conventional study of child development.

Humans are social beings, and social interaction is essential to normal human development. Social deprivation occurs when an individual is deprived of culturally normal interaction with the rest of society. Certain groups of people are more likely to experience social deprivation. For example, social deprivation often occurs along with a broad network of correlated factors that all contribute to social exclusion; these factors include mental illness, poverty, poor education, and low socioeconomic status.

Attachment Theory: This film provides an explanation of John Bowlby’s Attachment Theory.

By observing and interviewing victims of social deprivation, research has provided an understanding of how social deprivation is linked to human development and mental illness. As they develop, humans pass through critical periods, or windows of time during which they need to experience particular environmental stimuli in order to develop properly. But when individuals experience social deprivation, they miss those critical periods. Thus, social deprivation may delay or hinder development, especially for children.

Feral children provide an example of the effects of severe social deprivation during critical developmental periods. Feral children are children who grow up without social interaction. In some cases, they may have been abandoned early in childhood and grown up in the wilderness. In other cases, they may have been abused by parents who kept them isolated from other people. In several recorded cases, feral children failed to develop language skills, had only limited social understanding, and could not be rehabilitated.

Maternal Deprivation: This clip is of footage from a 1952 study on maternal deprivation that found babies suffer emotional damage when separated from their mothers.

Attachment theory may explain why social deprivation has such dire effects for children. According to attachment theory, an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.

1.5 – Isolation and Development

Social isolation refers to a complete or near-complete lack of contact with society, which can affect all aspects of a person’s life.

Social Isolation: Older adults are particularly susceptible to social isolation.

Social isolation occurs when members of a social species (like humans) have complete or near-complete lack of contact with society. Social isolation is usually imposed involuntary, not chosen. Social isolation is not the same as loneliness rooted in temporary lack of contact with other humans, nor is it the same as isolating actions that might be consciously undertaken by an individual. A related phenomenon, emotional isolation may occur when individuals are emotionally isolated, even though they may have well-functioning social networks.

While loneliness is often fleeting, true social isolation often lasts for years or decades and tends to be a chronic condition that affects all aspects of a person’s existence and can have serious consequences for health and well being. Socially isolated people have no one to turn to in personal emergencies, no one to confide in during a crisis, and no one against whom to measure their own behavior against or from whom to learn etiquette or socially acceptable behavior. Social isolation can be problematic at any age, although it has different effects for different age groups (that is, social isolation for children may have different effects than social isolation for adults, although both age groups may experience it).

Social isolation can be dangerous because the vitality of individuals’ social relationships affect their health. Social contacts influence individuals’ behavior by encouraging health-promoting behaviors, such as adequate sleep, diet, exercise, and compliance with medical regimens or by discouraging health-damaging behaviors, such as smoking, excessive eating, alcohol consumption, or drug abuse. Socially isolated individuals lack these beneficial influences, as well as lacking a social support network that can provide help and comfort in times of stress and distress. Social relationships can also connect people with diffuse social networks that facilitate access to a wide range of resources supportive of health, such as medical referral networks, access to others dealing with similar problems, or opportunities to acquire needed resources via jobs, shopping, or financial institutions. These effects are different from receiving direct support from a friend; instead, they are based on the ties that close social ties provide to more distant connections.

Sociologists debate whether new technologies, such as the Internet and mobile phones exacerbate social isolation or could help overcome it. With the advent of online social networking communities, people have increasing options for engaging in social activities that do not require real-world physical interaction. Chat rooms, message boards, and other types of communities are now meeting social needs for those who would rather stay home alone, yet still develop communities of online friends.

1.6 – Feral Children

1.6.1 – Introduction

A feral child is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and, crucially, of human language. Some feral children have been confined in isolation by other people, usually their own parents. In some cases, this child abandonment was due to the parents rejecting a child’s severe intellectual or physical impairment. Feral children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away.

1.6.2 – Depictions of Feral Children

Myths, legends, and fictional stories have depicted feral children reared by wild animals such as wolves and bears. Legendary and fictional feral children are often depicted as growing up with relatively normal human intelligence and skills and an innate sense of culture or civilization, coupled with a healthy dose of survival instincts. Their integration into human society is also made to seem relatively easy. These mythical children are often depicted as having superior strength, intelligence, and morals compared to “normal” humans. The implication is that because of their upbringing they represent humanity in a pure and uncorrupted state, similar to the noble savage.

1.6.3 – Feral Children in Reality

In reality, feral children lack the basic social skills that are normally learned in the process of enculturation. For example, they may be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright, and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them. They often seem mentally impaired and have almost insurmountable trouble learning human language. The impaired ability to learn language after having been isolated for so many years is often attributed to the existence of a critical period for language learning at an early age, and is taken as evidence in favor of the critical period hypothesis. It is theorized that if language is not developed, at least to a degree, during this critical period, a child can never reach his or her full language potential. The fact that feral children lack these abilities pinpoints the role of socialization in human development.

1.6.4 – Examples of Feral Children

Peter Pan: Peter Pan is an example of a fictional feral child.

Famous examples of feral children include Ibn Tufail’s Hayy, Ibn al-Nafis’ Kamil, Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, Edgar Rice Burroughs’ Tarzan, J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, and the legends of Atalanta, Enkidu and Romulus and Remus. Tragically, feral children are not just fictional. Several cases have been discovered in which caretakers brutally isolated their children and in doing so prevented normal development.

A real-life example of a feral child is Danielle Crockett, known as “The Girl in the Window”. The officer who found Danielle reported it was “the worst case of child neglect he had seen in 27 years”. Doctors and therapists diagnosed Danielle with environmental autism, yet she was still adopted by Bernie and Diane Lierow. Danielle could not speak or respond to others nor eat solid food. Today, Danielle lives in Tennessee with her parents and has made remarkable progress. She communicates through the PECS system and loves to swim and ride horses.

1.7 – Institutionalized Children

Institutionalized children may develop institutional syndrome, which refers to deficits or disabilities in social and life skills.

In clinical and abnormal psychology, institutional syndrome refers to deficits or disabilities in social and life skills, which develop after a person has spent a long period living in mental hospitals, prisons, or other remote institutions. In other words, individuals in institutions may be deprived of independence and of responsibility, to the point that once they return to “outside life” they are often unable to manage many of its demands. It has also been argued that institutionalized individuals become psychologically more prone to mental health problems.

The term institutionalization can be used both in regard to the process of committing an individual to a mental hospital or prison, or to institutional syndrome; thus a person being “institutionalized” may mean either that he/she has been placed in an institution, or that he/she is suffering the psychological effects of having been in an institution for an extended period of time.

Juvenile wards are sections of psychiatric hospitals or psychiatric wards set aside for children and/or adolescents with mental illness. However, there are a number of institutions specializing only in the treatment of juveniles, particularly when dealing with drug abuse, self-harm, eating disorders, anxiety, depression or other mental illness.

Psychiatric Wards: Many state hospitals have mental health branches, such as the Northern Michigan Asylum.

Deinstitutionalization is the process of replacing long-stay psychiatric hospitals with less isolated community mental health service for those diagnosed with a mental disorder or developmental disability. Deinstitutionalization can have multiple definitions; the first focuses on reducing the population size of mental institutions. This can be accomplished by releasing individuals from institutions, shortening the length of stays, and reducing both admissions and readmission. The second definition refers to reforming mental hospitals’ institutional processes so as to reduce or eliminate reinforcement of dependency, hopelessness, learned helplessness, and other maladaptive behaviors.

2 – The Self and Socialization

2.1 – Dimensions of Human Development

The dimensions of human development are divided into separate, consecutive stages of life from birth to old age.

The dimensions of human development are divided into separate but consecutive stages in human life. They are characterized by prenatal development, toddler, early childhood, late childhood, adolescence, early adulthood, middle adulthood, and old age.

Prenatal development is the process during which a human embryo gestates during pregnancy, from fertilization until birth. The terms prenatal development, fetal development, and embryology are often used interchangeably. The embryonic period in humans begins at fertilization and from birth until the first year, the child is referred to as an infant. The majority of a newborn infant’s time is spent in sleep. At first, this sleep is evenly spread throughout the day and night but after a couple of months, infants generally become diurnal.

Human Embryogenesis: The first few weeks of embryogenesis in humans begin with the fertilizing of the egg and end with the closing of the neural tube.

Babies between ages of 1 and 2 are called “toddlers. ” In this stage, intelligence is demonstrated through the use of symbols, language use matures, and memory and imagination are developed. In the phase of early childhood, children attend preschool, broaden their social horizons and become more engaged with those around them. In late childhood, intelligence is demonstrated through logical and systematic manipulation of symbols related to concrete objects. Children go through the transition from the world at home to that of school and peers. If children can discover pleasure in intellectual stimulation, being productive, seeking success, they will develop a sense of competence.

Adolescence is the period of life between the onset of puberty and the full commitment to an adult social role. In early adulthood, the person must learn how to form intimate relationships, both in friendship and love. The development of this skill relies on the resolution of other stages. It may be hard to establish intimacy if one has not developed trust or a sense of identity. If this skill is not learned, the alternative is alienation, isolation, a fear of commitment, and the inability to depend on others

Middle adulthood generally refers to the period between ages 40 to 60. During this period, middle-aged adults experience a conflict between generativity and stagnation. They may either feel a sense of contributing to the next generation and their community or a sense of purposelessness. The last and final stage is old age, which refers to those over 60–80 years. During old age, people frequently experience a conflict between integrity and despair.

2.2 – Sociological Theories of the Self

Sociological theories of the self attempt to explain how social processes such as socialization influence the development of the self.

George Herbert Mead: George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded as one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition in general.

Sociological theories of the self attempt to explain how social processes such as socialization influence the development of the self. One of the most important sociological approaches to the self was developed by American sociologist George Herbert Mead. Mead conceptualizes the mind as the individual importation of the social process. Mead presented the self and the mind in terms of a social process. As gestures are taken in by the individual organism, the individual organism also takes in the collective attitudes of others, in the form of gestures, and reacts accordingly with other organized attitudes.

This process is characterized by Mead as the “I” and the “me. ” The “me” is the social self and the “I” is the response to the “me. ” In other words, the “I” is the response of an individual to the attitudes of others, while the “me” is the organized set of attitudes of others which an individual assumes. The “me” is the accumulated understanding of the “generalized other,” i.e. how one thinks one’s group perceives oneself. The “I” is the individual’s impulses. The “I” is self as subject; the “me” is self as object. The “I” is the knower, the “me” is the known. The mind, or stream of thought, is the self-reflective movements of the interaction between the “I” and the “me. ” These dynamics go beyond selfhood in a narrow sense, and form the basis of a theory of human cognition. For Mead the thinking process is the internalized dialogue between the “I” and the “me. ”

Understood as a combination of the “I” and the “me,” Mead’s self proves to be noticeably entwined within a sociological existence. For Mead, existence in a community comes before individual consciousness. First one must participate in the different social positions within society and only subsequently can one use that experience to take the perspective of others and become self-conscious.

2.3 – Psychological Approaches to the Self

The psychology of self is the study of either the cognitive or affective representation of one’s identity.

2.3.1 – Psychology of the Self

The psychology of the self is the study of the cognitive or affective representation of one’s identity. In modern psychology, the earliest formulation of the self derived from the distinction between the self as “I,” the subjective knower, and the self as “me,” the object that is known. Put differently, let us say an individual wanted to think about their “self” as an analytic object. They might ask themselves the question, “what kind of person am I? ” That person is still, in that moment, thinking from some perspective, which is also considered the “self. ” Thus, in this case, the “self” is both what is doing the thinking, and also, at the same time, the object that is being thought about. It is from this dualism that the concept of the self initially emerged in modern psychology. Current psychological thought suggests that the self plays an integral part in human motivation, cognition, affect, and social identity.

2.3.2 – The Kohut Self

Heinz Kohut, an American psychologist, theorized a bipolar self that was comprised of two systems of narcissistic perfection, one of which contained ambitions and the other of which contained ideals. Kohut called the pole of ambitions the narcissistic self (later called the grandiose self). He called the pole of ideals the idealized parental imago. According to Kohut, the two poles of the self represented natural progressions in the psychic life of infants and toddlers.

2.3.3 – The Jungian Self

Carl Gustav Jung: According to Jung, the Self is one of several archetypes.

In Jungian theory, derived from the psychologist C.G. Jung, the Self is one of several archetypes. It signifies the coherent whole, unifying both the conscious and unconscious mind of a person. The Self, according to Jung, is the end product of individuation, which is defined as the process of integrating one’s personality. For Jung, the Self could be symbolized by either the circle (especially when divided into four quadrants), the square, or the mandala. He also believed that the Self could be symbolically personified in the archetypes of the Wise Old Woman and Wise Old Man.

In contrast to earlier theorists, Jung believed that an individual’s personality had a center. While he considered the ego to be the center of an individual’s conscious identity, he considered the Self to be the center of an individual’s total personality. This total personality included within it the ego, consciousness, and the unconscious mind. To Jung, the Self is both the whole and the center. While Jung perceived the ego to be a self-contained, off-centered, smaller circle contained within the whole, he believed that the Self was the greater circle. In addition to being the center of the psyche, Jung also believed the Self was autonomous, meaning that it exists outside of time and space. He also believed that the Self was the source of dreams, and that the Self would appear in dreams as an authority figure that could either perceive the future or guide an individual’s present.

3 – Theories of Socialization

3.1 – Introduction

Socialization is the means by which human infants begin to acquire the skills necessary to perform as functioning members of their society.

3.1.1 – Overview

“Socialization” is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and educationalists to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society. Socialization is thus “the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained.”

Socialization is the means by which human infants begin to acquire the skills necessary to perform as a functioning member of their society and is the most influential learning process one can experience. Unlike other living species, whose behavior is biologically set, humans need social experiences to learn their culture and to survive. Although cultural variability manifests in the actions, customs, and behaviors of whole social groups, the most fundamental expression of culture is found at the individual level. This expression can only occur after an individual has been socialized by his or her parents, family, extended family, and extended social networks.

The looking-glass self is a social psychological concept, created by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902, stating that a person’s self grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. The term refers to people shaping themselves based on other people’s perception, which leads people to reinforce other people’s perspectives on themselves. People shape themselves based on what other people perceive and confirm other people’s opinion on themselves.

George Herbert Mead developed a theory of social behaviorism to explain how social experience develops an individual’s personality. Mead’s central concept is the self: the part of an individual’s personality composed of self-awareness and self-image. Mead claimed that the self is not there at birth, rather, it is developed with social experience.

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. In his later work, Freud proposed that the human psyche could be divided into three parts: Id, ego, and super-ego. The id is the completely unconscious, impulsive, child-like portion of the psyche that operates on the “pleasure principle” and is the source of basic impulses and drives; it seeks immediate pleasure and gratification. The ego acts according to the reality principle (i.e., it seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bringing grief). Finally, the super-ego aims for perfection. It comprises that organized part of the personality structure, mainly but not entirely unconscious that includes the individual’s ego ideals, spiritual goals, and the psychic agency that criticizes and prohibits his or her drives, fantasies, feelings, and actions.

3.1.2 – Different Forms of Socialization

Group socialization is the theory that an individual’s peer groups, rather than parental figures, influences his or her personality and behavior in adulthood. Adolescents spend more time with peers than with parents. Therefore, peer groups have stronger correlations with personality development than parental figures do. For example, twin brothers, whose genetic makeup are identical, will differ in personality because they have different groups of friends, not necessarily because their parents raised them differently.

Gender socialization Henslin (1999) contends that “an important part of socialization is the learning of culturally defined gender roles ” (p. 76). Gender socialization refers to the learning of behavior and attitudes considered appropriate for a given sex. Boys learn to be boys, and girls learn to be girls. This “learning” happens by way of many different agents of socialization. The family is certainly important in reinforcing gender roles, but so are one’s friends, school, work, and the mass media. Gender roles are reinforced through “countless subtle and not so subtle ways,” said Henslin (1999, p. 76).

Cultural socialization refers to parenting practices that teach children about their racial history or heritage and, sometimes, is referred to as “pride development. ” Preparation for bias refers to parenting practices focused on preparing children to be aware of, and cope with, discrimination. Promotion of mistrust refers to the parenting practices of socializing children to be wary of people from other races. Egalitarianism refers to socializing children with the belief that all people are equal and should be treated with a common humanity.

3.2 – Cooley

In 1902, Charles Horton Cooley created the concept of the looking-glass self, which explored how identity is formed.

The looking-glass self is a social psychological concept created by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902. It states that a person’s self grows out of society’s interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. The term refers to people shaping their identity based on the perception of others, which leads the people to reinforce other people’s perspectives on themselves. People shape themselves based on what other people perceive and confirm other people’s opinion of themselves.

There are three main components of the looking-glass self:

  • First, we imagine how we must appear to others.
  • Second, we imagine the judgment of that appearance.
  • Finally, we develop our self through the judgments of others.

In hypothesizing the framework for the looking glass self, Cooley said, “the mind is mental” because “the human mind is social. ” In other words, the mind’s mental ability is a direct result of human social interaction. Beginning as children, humans begin to define themselves within the context of their socializations. The child learns that the symbol of his/her crying will elicit a response from his/her parents, not only when they are in need of necessities, such as food, but also as a symbol to receive their attention. George Herbert Mead described the self as “taking the role of the other,” the premise for which the self is actualized. Through interaction with others, we begin to develop an identity about who we are, as well as empathy for others.

An example of the looking-self concept is computer technology. Using computer technology, people can create an avatar, a customized symbol that represents the computer user. For example, in the virtual world Second Life, the computer-user can create a human-like avatar that reflects the user in regard to race, age, physical makeup, status, and the like. By selecting certain physical characteristics or symbols, the avatar reflects how the creator seeks to be perceived in the virtual world and how the symbols used in the creation of the avatar influence others’ actions toward the computer user.

3.3 – Mead

For Mead, the self arises out of the social act of communication, which is the basis for socialization.

George Herbert Mead was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded as one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition in general.

The two most important roots of Mead’s work, and of symbolic interactionism in general, are the philosophy of pragmatism and social behaviorism. Pragmatism is a wide ranging philosophical position from which several aspects of Mead’s influences can be identified. There are four main tenets of pragmatism: First, to pragmatists true reality does not exist “out there” in the real world, it “is actively created as we act in and toward the world. Second, people remember and base their knowledge of the world on what has been useful to them and are likely to alter what no longer “works. ” Third, people define the social and physical “objects” they encounter in the world according to their use for them. Lastly, if we want to understand actors, we must base that understanding on what people actually do. In Pragmatism nothing practical or useful is held to be necessarily true, nor is anything which helps to survive merely in the short term. For example, to believe my cheating spouse is faithful may help me feel better now, but it is certainly not useful from a more long-term perspective because it doesn’t align with the facts (and is therefore not true).

George Herbert Mead: George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) was an American philosopher, sociologist, and psychologist, primarily affiliated with the University of Chicago, where he was one of several distinguished pragmatists. He is regarded as one of the founders of social psychology and the American sociological tradition in general.

Mead was a very important figure in twentieth century social philosophy. One of his most influential ideas was the emergence of mind and self from the communication process between organisms, discussed in the book, Mind, Self and Society, also known as social behaviorism. For Mead, mind arises out of the social act of communication. Mead’s concept of the social act is relevant, not only to his theory of mind, but also to all facets of his social philosophy. His theory of “mind, self, and society” is, in effect, a philosophy of the act from the standpoint of a social process involving the interaction of many individuals, just as his theory of knowledge and value is a philosophy of the act from the standpoint of the experiencing individual in interaction with an environment.

Mead is a major American philosopher by virtue of being, along with John Dewey, Charles Peirce, and William James, one of the founders of pragmatism. He also made significant contributions to the philosophies of nature, science, and history, to philosophical anthropology, and to process philosophy. Dewey and Alfred North Whitehead considered Mead a thinker of the first rank. He is a classic example of a social theorist whose work does not fit easily within conventional disciplinary boundaries.

3.4 – Freud

According to Freud, human behavior, experience, and cognition are largely determined by unconscious drives and events in early childhood.

3.4.1 – Introduction

Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist who founded the discipline of psychoanalysis. Interested in philosophy as a student, Freud later decided to become a neurological researcher in cerebral palsy, Aphasia, and microscopic neuroanatomy. Freud went on to develop theories about the unconscious mind and the mechanism of repression and established the field of verbal psychotherapy by creating psychoanalysis, a clinical method for treating psychopathology through dialogue between a patient and a psychoanalyst. The most common problems treatable with psychoanalysis include phobias, conversions, compulsions, obsessions, anxiety, attacks, depressions, sexual dysfunctions, a wide variety of relationship problems (such as dating and marital strife), and a wide variety of character problems (painful shyness, meanness, obnoxiousness, workaholism, hyperseductiveness, hyperemotionality, hyperfastidiousness).

3.4.2 – The Basic Tenets of Psychoanalysis

The basic tenets of psychoanalysis include the following:

  • First, human behavior, experience, and cognition are largely determined by irrational drives.
  • Those drives are largely unconscious.
  • Attempts to bring those drives into awareness meet psychological resistance in the form of defense mechanisms.
  • Besides the inherited constitution of personality, one’s development is determined by events in early childhood.
  • Conflicts between conscious view of reality and unconscious (repressed) material can result in mental disturbances, such as neurosis, neurotic traits, anxiety, depression etc.
  • The liberation from the effects of the unconscious material is achieved through bringing this material into the consciousness.

3.4.3 – Psychoanalysis as Treatment

Freudian psychoanalysis refers to a specific type of treatment in which the “analysand” (the analytic patient) verbalizes thoughts, including free associations, fantasies, and dreams, from which the analyst induces the unconscious conflicts. This causes the patient’s symptoms and character problems, and interprets them for the patient to create insight for resolution of the problems. The specifics of the analyst’s interventions typically include confronting and clarifying the patient’s pathological defenses, wishes, and guilt. Through the analysis of conflicts, including those contributing to resistance and those involving transference onto the analyst of distorted reactions, psychoanalytic treatment can hypothesize how patients unconsciously are their own worst enemies: how unconscious, symbolic reactions that have been stimulated by experience are causing symptoms.

3.4.4 – Id, Ego, Super-Ego

Freud hoped to prove that his model was universally valid and thus turned to ancient mythology and contemporary ethnography for comparative material. Freud named his new theory the Oedipus complex after the famous Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles. The Oedipus conflict was described as a state of psychosexual development and awareness. In his later work, Freud proposed that the human psyche could be divided into three parts: Id, ego, and super-ego. The id is the completely unconscious, impulsive, child-like portion of the psyche that operates on the “pleasure principle” and is the source of basic impulses and drives; it seeks immediate pleasure and gratification. The ego acts according to the reality principle (i.e., it seeks to please the id’s drive in realistic ways that will benefit in the long term rather than bringing grief). Finally, the super-ego aims for perfection. It comprises that organized part of the personality structure, mainly but not entirely unconscious, that includes the individual’s ego, ideals, spiritual goals, and the psychic agency that criticizes and prohibits his or her drives, fantasies, feelings, and actions.

3.5 – Piaget

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence.

Jean Piaget: Jean Piaget was a French-speaking Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher known for his epistemological studies with children.

Jean Piaget was a French-speaking Swiss developmental psychologist and philosopher known for his epistemological studies with children. His theory of cognitive development and epistemological view are together called “genetic epistemology. ” He believed answers for the epistemological questions at his time could be better addressed by looking at their genetic components. This led to his experiments with children and adolescents in which he explored the thinking and logic processes used by children of different ages.

Piaget’s theory of cognitive development is a comprehensive theory about the nature and development of human intelligence. Piaget believed that reality is a dynamic system of continuous change and as such, it is defined in reference to the two conditions that define dynamic systems. Specifically, he argued that reality involves transformations and states. Transformations refer to all manners of changes that a thing or person can undergo. States refer to the conditions or the appearances in which things or persons can be found between transformations.

Piaget explains the growth of characteristics and types of thinking as the result of four stages of development. The stages are as follows:

  • The sensorimotor stage is the first of the four stages in cognitive development that “extends from birth to the acquisition of language. ” In this stage, infants construct an understanding of the world by coordinating experiences with physical actions–in other words, infants gain knowledge of the word from the physical actions they perform. The development of object permanence is one of the most important accomplishments of this stage.
  • The pre-operational stage is the second stage of cognitive development. It begins around the end of the second year. During this stage, the child learns to use and to represent objects by images, words, and drawings. The child is able to form stable concepts, as well as mental reasoning and magical beliefs.
  • The third stage is called the “concrete operational stage” and occurs approximately between the ages of 7 and 11 years. In this stage, children develop the appropriate use of logic and are able to think abstractly, make rational judgments about concrete phenomena, and systematically manipulate symbols related to concrete objects.
  • The final stage is known as the “formal operational stage” (adolescence and into adulthood). Intelligence is demonstrated through the logical use of symbols related to abstract concepts. At this point, the person is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.

When studying the field of education Piaget identified two processes: accommodation and assimilation. Assimilation describes how humans perceive and adapt to new information. It is the process of taking one’s environment and new information and fitting it into pre-existing cognitive schemas. Accommodation, unlike assimilation, is the process of taking one’s environment and new information and altering one’s pre-existing schemas in order to fit in the new information.

3.6 – Levinson

Daniel J. Levinson was one of the founders of the field of positive adult development.

3.6.1 – Introduction

Daniel J. Levinson, an American psychologist, was one of the founders of the field of positive adult development. He was born in New York City on May 28, 1920, and completed his dissertation at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1947. In this dissertation, he attempted to develop a way of measuring ethnocentrism. In 1950, he moved to Harvard University. From 1966 to 1990, he was a professor of psychology at the Yale University School of Medicine.

Levinson’s two most important books were Seasons of a Man’s Life and Seasons of a Woman’s Life, which continue to be highly influential works. His multidisciplinary approach is reflected in his work on the life structure theory of adult development.

3.6.2 – Positive Adult Development

Positive Adult Development: Research in Positive Adult Development questions not only whether development ceases after adolescence, but also the notion, popularized by many gerontologists, that a decline occurs after late adolescence.

Positive adult development is one of the four major forms of adult developmental study. The other three are directionless change, stasis, and decline. Positive adult developmental processes are divided into the following six areas of study:

  • hierarchical complexity
  • knowledge
  • experience
  • expertise
  • wisdom
  • spirituality

Research in this field questions not only whether development ceases after adolescence, but also the notion, popularized by many gerontologists, that a decline occurs after late adolescence. Research shows that positive development does still occur during adulthood. Recent studies indicate that such development is useful in predicting things such as an individual’s health, life satisfaction, and ability to contribute to society.

Now that there is scientific proof that individuals continue to develop as adults, researchers have begun investigating how to foster such development. Rather than just describing, as phenomenon, the fact that adults continue to develop, researchers are interested in aiding and guiding that development. For educators of adults in formal settings, this has been a priority in many ways already. More recently, researchers have begun to experiment with hypotheses about fostering positive adult development. These methods are used in organizational and educational setting. Some use developmentally-designed, structured public discourse to address complex public issues.

4 – Learning Personality, Morality, and Emotions

4.1 – The Sociology of Emotions

Social Significance of Emotion: The sociology of emotion suggests that individual emotional reactions, such as this girl’s happiness and excitement, impact social interactions and institutions.

The sociology of emotions applies sociological theorems and techniques to the study of human emotions. As sociology emerged, primarily as a reaction to the negative affects of modernity, many normative theories deal in some sense with “emotion” without forming a part of any specific subdiscipline: Marx described capitalism as detrimental to personal “species-being,” Simmel wrote of the deindividualizing tendencies of “the metropolis,” and Weber’s work dealt with the rationalizing effect of modernity in general.

Emotions operate on both micro and macro levels. On the micro level, social roles, norms, and feeling rules structure’s everyday social interactions. On a macro level, these same emotional processes structure social institutions, discourses, and ideologies. We try to regulate our emotions to fit in with the norms of the situation, based on many, and sometimes conflicting demands upon us. Systematic observations of group interaction found that a substantial portion of group activity is devoted to the socio-emotional issues of expressing affect and dealing with tension. Simultaneously, field studies of social attraction in groups revealed that feelings of individuals about each other collate into social networks, a discovery that still is being explored in the field of social network analysis.

Ethnomethodology revealed emotional commitments to everyday norms through purposeful breaching of the norms. In one study, a sociologist sent his students home and instructed them to act as guests rather than family members. Students reported others’ astonishment, bewilderment, shock, anxiety, embarrassment, and ange and family members accused the students of being mean, inconsiderate, selfish, nasty, or impolite.

Emotions: Dr. Véronique Tran explains what emotions are and how they are linked to social interactions and social norms.

Important theories and theoreticians relating to the sociology of emotion include:

  • T. David Kemper: He proposed that people in social interaction have positions on two relational dimensions: status and power. Emotions emerge as interpersonal events, change or maintain individuals’ status and power.
  • Arlie Hochschild: She proposed that individuals manage their feelings to produce acceptable displays according to ideological and cultural standards.
  • Peggy Thoits: She divided emotion management techniques into implementation of new events and reinterpretation of past events. Thoits noted that emotions also can be managed with drugs, by performing faux gestures and facial expressions, or by cognitive reclassifications of one’s feelings.
  • Thomas J. Scheff: He established that many cases of social conflict are based on a destructive and often escalating, but stoppable and reversible shame-rage cycle–when someone results or feels shamed by another, their social bond comes under stress.
  • Randall Collins: He stated that emotional energy is the main motivating force in social life, for love and hatred, investing, working or consuming, and rendering cult or waging war.
  • David R. Heise. He developed the Affect Control Theory, which proposes that social actions are designed by their agents to create impressions that befit sentiments reigning in a situation.

4.2 – Informal Social Control

4.2.1 – Social Control

Social control refers to societal and political mechanisms that regulate individual and group behaviour in an attempt to gain conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social control – informal control and formal control.

4.2.2 – Formal Control

Formal social control typically involves the state. External sanctions are enforced by the government to prevent chaos, violence, or anomie in society. An example of this would be a law preventing individuals from committing theft. Some theorists, like Émile Durkheim, refer to this type of control as regulation.

4.2.3 – Informal Control

Informal means of control: At funerals, people tend to comport themselves to look as if they are grieving, even if they did not know the person who passed away. This is example of a social situation controlling an individual’s emotions.

Informal control typically involves an individual internalizing certain norms and values. This process is called socialization. The social values present in individuals are products of informal social control, exercised implicitly by a society through particular customs, norms, and mores. Individuals internalize the values of their society, whether conscious or not of this indoctrination.

Informal sanctions may include shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, and disapproval, which can cause an individual to conform to the social norms of the society. In extreme cases, sanctions may include social discrimination, exclusion, and violence. Informal social control has the potential to have a greater impact on an individual than formal control. When social values become internalized, they become an aspect of an individual’s personality.

Informal sanctions check ‘deviant’ behavior. An example of a negative sanction is depicted in a scene in ‘The Wall,’ a film by Pink Floyd. In this scene, a young protagonist is ridiculed and verbally abused by a high school teacher for writing poetry in a mathematics class. Another example occurs in the movie ‘About a Boy. ” In this film, a young boy hesitates to jump from a high springboard and is ridiculed for his fear. Though he eventually jumps, his behaviour is controlled by shame, not by his internal desire to jump.

5 – Agents of Socialization

5.1 – Family

Family: Families have strong ties and, therefore, are powerful agents of socialization.

The primary function of the family is to reproduce society, both biologically through procreation and socially through socialization. Given these functions, the individual’s experience of his or her family shifts over time. From the perspective of children, the family is a family of orientation: the family functions to locate children socially, and plays a major role in their socialization. From the point of view of the parent(s), the family is a family of procreation: The family functions to produce and socialize children. In some cultures, marriage imposes upon women the obligation to bear children. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bridewealth, which is an amount of money, wealth, or property paid to the bride’s parents by the groom’s family, signifies a woman’s requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face substantial threats of physical abuse and reprisals.

Producing offspring is not the only function of the family. Marriage sometimes establishes the legal father of a woman’s child; establishes the legal mother of a man’s child; gives the husband or his family control over the wife’s sexual services, labor, and/or property; gives the wife or her family control over the husband’s sexual services, labor, and/or property; establishes a joint fund of property for the benefit of children; establishes a relationship between the families of the husband and wife. None of these functions are universal, nor are all of them inherent to any one society. In societies with a sexual division of labor, marriage, and the resulting relationship between a husband and wife, is necessary for the formation of an economically productive household. In modern societies, marriage entails particular rights and privileges which encourage the formation of new families even when there is no intention of having children.

In most societies, marriage between brothers and sisters is forbidden. In many societies, marriage between some first cousins is preferred, while at the other extreme, the medieval Catholic Church prohibited marriage even between distant cousins. The present day Catholic Church still maintains a standard of required distance for marriage.

These sorts of restrictions can be classified as an incest taboo, which is a cultural norm or rule that forbids sexual relations between family members and relatives. Incest taboo may serve to promote social solidarity and is a form of exogamy. Exogamy can be broadly defined as a social arrangement according to which marriages can only occur with members outside of one’s social group. One exception to this pattern is in ancient Egypt, where marriage between brothers and sisters was permitted in the royal family, as it was also the case in Hawaii and among the Inca. This privilege was denied commoners and may have served to concentrate wealth and power in one family.

5.2 – Neighborhood

5.2.1 – Introduction

A neighborhood is a geographically localized community within a larger city, town, or suburb. Neighborhoods are often social communities with considerable face-to-face interaction among members. Neighborhoods are typically generated by social interaction among people living near one another. In this sense, they are local social units larger than households, but not directly under the control of city or state officials. In some preindustrial urban traditions, basic municipal functions such as protection, social regulation of births and marriages, cleaning, and upkeep are handled informally by neighborhoods and not by urban governments; this pattern is well documented for historical Islamic cities. In addition to social neighbourhoods, most ancient and historical cities also had administrative districts used by officials for taxation, record-keeping, and social control.

5.2.2 – Specialization and Differentiation

Chelsea: This image is of Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.

Neighborhoods in preindustrial cities often had some degree of social specialization or differentiation. Ethnic enclaves were important in many past cities and remain common in cities today. Economic specialists, including craft producers, merchants, and others could be concentrated in neighborhoods. Other neighborhoods were united by religious persuasion. One factor contributing to neighborhood distinctiveness and social cohesion was the role of rural to urban migration. This was a continual process for preindustrial cities in which migrants tended to move in with relatives and acquaintances from their rural past.

On another level, a community is a group of interacting people, living in some proximity. Community usually refers to a social unit—larger than a household—that shares common values and has social cohesion. The sense of community and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital.

5.3 – School

School: School serves as a primary site of education, including the inculcation of “hidden curricula” of social values and norms.

Education is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people is transmitted from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another. The sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes. It is most concerned with the public schooling systems of modern industrial societies, including the expansion of higher, adult, and continuing education.

Education has often been seen as a fundamentally optimistic human endeavor characterized by aspirations for progress and betterment. It is understood by many to be a means of overcoming limitations, achieving greater equality and acquiring wealth and social status. Education is perceived as an endeavor that enables children to develop according to their unique needs and potential. It is also perceived as one of the best means of achieving greater social equality. Some take a particularly negative view, arguing that the education system is intentionally designed to perpetuate the social reproduction of inequality.

A systematic sociology of education began with Émile Durkheim’s work on moral education as a basis for organic solidarity. It was after World War II, however, that the subject received renewed interest around the world: from technological functionalism in the US, egalitarian reform of opportunity in Europe, and human-capital theory in economics. These all implied that, with industrialization, the need for a technologically-skilled labor force undermines class distinctions and other ascriptive systems of stratification, and that education promotes social mobility.

Structural functionalists believe that society leans towards social equilibrium and social order. Socialization is the process by which the new generation learns the knowledge, attitudes and values that they will need as productive citizens. Although this aim is stated in the formal curriculum, it is mainly achieved through “the hidden curriculum”, a subtler, but nonetheless powerful, indoctrination of the norms and values of the wider society. Students learn these values because their behavior at school is regulated until they gradually internalize and accept them. For example, most high school graduates are socialized to either enter college or the workforce after graduation. This is an expectation set forth at the beginning of a student’s education.

Education also performs another crucial function. As various jobs become vacant, they must be filled with the appropriate people. Therefore, the other purpose of education is to sort and rank individuals for placement in the labor market. Those with high achievement will be trained for the most skilled and intellectually tasking jobs and in reward, be given the highest income. On the other hand, those who achieve the least, will be given the least demanding jobs, and hence the least income.

5.4 – Day Care

Day Care: A mother who works in construction drops her child off at daycare prior to work.

Day care is the care of a child during the day by a person other than the child’s legal guardians, typically performed by someone outside the child’s immediate family. Day care is typically a service during specific periods, such as when parents are at work. Child care is provided in nurseries or crèches, or by a nanny or family child care provider caring for children in their own homes. It can also take on a more formal structure, with education, child development, discipline, and even preschool education falling into the fold of services.

The day care industry is a continuum from personal parental care to large, regulated institutions. The vast majority of childcare is still performed by the parents, in house nanny, or through informal arrangements with relatives, neighbors, or friends. Another factor favoring large corporate day cares is the existence of childcare facilities in the workplace. Large corporations will not handle this employee benefit directly themselves and will seek out large corporate providers to manage their corporate daycares. Most smaller, for-profit day cares operate out of a single location.

Independent studies suggest that good day care for non-infants is not harmful. Some advocate that day care is inherently inferior to parental care. In some cases, good daycare can provide different experiences than parental care does, especially when children reach two and are ready to interact with other children. Bad day care puts the child at physical, emotional, and attachment risk. Higher quality care is associated with better outcomes. Children in higher quality child care had somewhat better language and cognitive development during the first 4½ years of life than those in lower quality care. They were also somewhat more cooperative than those who experienced lower quality care during the first three years of life.

As a matter of social policy, consistent, good daycare may ensure adequate early childhood education for children of less skilled parents. From a parental perspective, good daycare can complement good parenting. Early childhood education is the formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family in settings outside of the home. “Early childhood” is usually defined as before the age of normal schooling – five years in most nations, though the U.S. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) instead defines “early childhood” as before the age of eight.

5.5 – Peer Groups

A peer group is a social group whose members have interests, social positions, and age in common. This is where children can escape supervision and learn to form relationships on their own. The influence of the peer group typically peaks during adolescence. However, peer groups generally only affect short term interests unlike the family, which has long term influence.

Unlike the family and the school, the peer group lets children escape the direct supervision of adults. Among peers, children learn to form relationships on their own. Peer groups also offer the chance to discuss interests that adults may not share with their children (such as clothing and popular music) or permit (such as drugs and sex ).

Peer groups have a significant influence on psychological and social adjustments for group individuals. They provide perspective outside of individual’s viewpoints. Members inside peer groups also learn to develop relationships with others in the social system. Peers, particularly group members, become important social referents for teaching members’ customs, social norms, and different ideologies.

Peer groups can also serve as a venue for teaching members gender roles. Through gender-role socialization group members learn about sex differences, social and cultural expectations. While boys and girls differ greatly there is not a one to one link between sex and gender role with males always being masculine and female always being feminine. Both genders can contain different levels of masculinity and femininity.

Adolescent peer groups provide support for children and teens as they assimilate into the adult society decreasing dependence on parents, increasing feeling of self-sufficiency, and connecting with a much larger social network. Peer groups cohesion is determined and maintained by such factors as group communication, group consensus, and group conformity concerning attitude and behavior. As members of peer groups interconnect, and agree, a normative code arises. This normative code can become very rigid deciding group behavior and dress. Peer group individuality is increased by normative codes, and intergroup conflict. Member deviation from the strict normative code can lead to rejection from the group. The term “peer pressure” is often used to describe instances where an individual feels indirectly pressured into changing their behavior to match that of their peers. Taking up smoking and underage drinking are two of the best known examples. In spite of the often negative connotations of the term, peer pressure can be used positively.

5.6 – Mass Media and Technology

5.6.1 – Introduction

Mass media is the means for delivering impersonal communications directed to a vast audience. The term media comes from Latin meaning, “middle,” suggesting that the media’s function is to connect people. Since mass media has enormous effects on our attitudes and behavior, notably in regards to aggression, it contributes to the socialization process.

5.6.2 – Media Bias

Media bias refers the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media. Bias exists in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term “media bias” implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed.

Media Bias: A panel in the Newseum in Washington, DC shows the September 12 headlines in America and around the world. Note the different treatment of 9/11 by different sources.

A technique employed to avoid bias is the “round table,” an adversarial format in which representatives from opposing views comment on an issue. This approach theoretically allows diverse views to appear in the media. However, the person organizing the report still has the responsibility to choose people who really represent the breadth of opinion, to ask them non-prejudicial questions, and to edit their comments fairly. When done carelessly, a point/counterpoint can be as unfair as a simple biased report, by suggesting that the “losing” side lost on its merits.

The apparent bias of media is not always specifically political in nature. The news media tend to appeal to a specific audience. This means stories that affect a large number of people on a global scale often receive less coverage in some markets than local stories, such as a public school shooting, a celebrity wedding, a plane crash, or similarly glamorous or shocking stories. Millions of deaths in an ethnic conflict in Africa might be afforded scant mention in American media, while the shooting of five people in a high school is analyzed in-depth. The reason for these types of bias is a function of what the public wants to watch and/or what producers and publishers believe the public wants to watch.

5.6.3 – Video Game Violence

Debates have been going on for years about the problem and effect of violent video games. Many people believe that violent video games, when played regularly, lead to real-life violence. In fact, video game violence can lead to an increase in a person’s thoughts and behaviors. There have been incidents of children acting out the violence they see in a game, often with dire consequences. The key is being involved in other activities; when teenagers who played violent video games also participated in sports or clubs, there was less indication they would become violent in any potential situation.

5.7 – Workplace

Organization Socialization Model: A model of onboarding (adapted from Bauer & Erdogan, 2011). (click image to enlarge)

The workplace performs its socialization function through onboarding. This is the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviors to become effective organizational members. Tactics used in this process include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, or computer-based orientations. Research has demonstrated that these socialization techniques lead to positive outcomes for new employees including higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, and reduction in stress. These outcomes are particularly important to an organization looking to retain a competitive advantage in an increasingly mobile and globalized workforce.

Employees with certain personality traits and experiences adjust to an organization more quickly. These traits are a proactive personality, the “Big Five” traits, curiosity and greater experience levels. “Proactive personality” refers to the tendency to take charge of situations and achieve control over one’s environment. This type of personality predisposes some workers to engage in behaviors like information seeking that accelerate the socialization process. The Big Five personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—have been linked to onboarding success. Specifically, new employees who are extraverted or particularly open to experience are more likely to seek out information, feedback, acceptance and relationships with co-workers.

Curiosity also plays a substantial role in the newcomer adaptation process. It is defined as the “desire to acquire knowledge” that energizes individual exploration of an organization’s culture and norms. Individuals with a curious disposition eagerly seek out information to help them make sense of their new organizational surroundings, which leads to a smoother onboarding experience. Employee experience levels also affect the onboarding process. For example, more experienced members of the workforce tend adapt to a new organization differently from a college graduate starting his or her first job. This is because seasoned employees can draw from past experiences to help them adjust to their new work settings. They may be less affected by specific socialization efforts because they have (a) a better understanding of their own needs and requirements at work and (b) are more familiar with what is acceptable in the work context.

Employees that build relationships and seek information can help facilitate the onboarding process. Newcomers can also speed up their adjustment by demonstrating behaviors that assist them in clarifying expectations, learning organizational values and norms, and gaining social acceptance. Information seeking occurs when new employees ask questions in an effort to learn about the company’s norms, expectations, procedures and policies. Also called networking, relationship building involves an employee’s efforts to develop camaraderie with co-workers and supervisors. This can be achieved informally through talking to their new peers during a coffee break, or through more formal means like pre-arranged company events. Research has shown relationship building to be a key part of the onboarding process, leading to outcomes like greater job satisfaction, better job performance and decreased stress.

5.8 – Religion

Socialization through Religious Ceremonies: Religious ceremonies, such as Catholic mass, socialize members of the faith to the practices and beliefs of the religion.

Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions, and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.

Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices, and organizational forms of religion, using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic, and census analysis) and qualitative approaches, such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical, and documentary materials.

Agents of socialization differ in effects across religious traditions. Some believe religion is like an ethnic or cultural category, making it less likely for the individuals to break from religious affiliations and be more socialized in this setting. Parental religious participation is the most influential part of religious socialization–more so than religious peers or religious beliefs. For example, children raised in religious homes are more likely to have some degree of religiosity in their lives. They are also likely to raise their own children with religion and to participate in religious ceremonies, such as baptisms and weddings.

Belief in God is attributable to a combination of the above factors but is also informed by a discussion of socialization. The biggest predictor of adult religiosity is parental religiosity; if a person’s parents were religious when he was a child, he is likely to be religious when he grows up. Children are socialized into religion by their parents and their peers and, as a result, they tend to stay in religions. Alternatively, children raised in secular homes tend not to convert to religion. This is the underlying premise of Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s main thesis–they found some interesting cases where just the opposite seemed to happen. Secular people converted to religion and religious people became secular. Despite these rare exceptions, the process of socialization is certainly a significant factor in the continued existence of religion.

5.9 – The Division of Labor

Division of Labor: An assembly line is a good example of a system that incorporates the division of labor; each worker is completing a discrete task to increase efficiency of overall production.

Division of labor is the specialization of cooperative labor in specific, circumscribed tasks and roles. Historically, an increasingly complex division of labor is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialization processes. Division of labor was also a method used by the Sumerians to categorize different jobs and divide them between skilled members of a society.

Emilie Durkheim was a driving force in developing the theory of the division of labor in socialization. In his dissertation, Durkheim described how societies maintained social order based on two very different forms of solidarity (mechanical and organic), and analyzed the transition from more “primitive” societies to advanced industrial societies.

Durkheim suggested that in a “primitive” society, mechanical solidarity, with people acting and thinking alike and sharing a collective or common conscience, allows social order to be maintained. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that “offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience”. Because social ties were relatively homogeneous and weak throughout society, the law had to be repressive and penal, to respond to offenses of the common conscience.

In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex division of labor means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly; social inequality reflects natural inequality. Durkheim argued that in this type of society moral regulation was needed to maintain order (or organic solidarity). He thought that transition of a society from “primitive” to advanced may bring about major disorder, crisis, and anomie. However, once society has reached the “advanced” stage, it becomes much stronger and is done developing.

In the modern world, those specialists most preoccupied with theorizing about the division of labor are those involved in management and organization. In view of the global extremes of the division of labor, the question is often raised about what manner of division of labor would be ideal, most efficient, and most just. It is widely accepted that the division of labor is to a great extent inevitable, simply because no one can perform all tasks at once. Labor hierarchy is a very common feature of the modern workplace structure, but the structure of these hierarchies can be influenced by a variety of factors.

5.10 – The Incest Taboo, Marriage, and the Family


Inbreeding: An intensive form of inbreeding where an individual S is mated to his daughter D1, granddaughter D2 and so on, in order to maximise the percentage of S’s genes in the offspring. D3 would have 87.5% of his genes, while D4 would have 93.75%.

An incest taboo is any cultural rule or norm that prohibits sexual relations between relatives. All human cultures have norms regarding who is considered suitable and unsuitable as sexual or marriage partners. Usually certain close relatives are excluded from being possible partners. Little agreement exists among cultures about which types of blood relations are permissible partners and which are not. In many cultures, certain types of cousin relations are preferred as sexual and marital partners, whereas others are taboo.

One potential explanation for the incest taboo sees it as a cultural implementation of a biologically evolved preference for sexual partners without shared genes, as inbreeding may have detrimental outcomes. The most widely held hypothesis proposes that the so-called Westermarck effect discourages adults from engaging in sexual relations with individuals with whom they grew up. The existence of the Westermarck effect has achieved some empirical support. The Westermarck effect, first proposed by Edvard Westermarck in 1891, is the theory that children reared together, regardless of biological relationship, form a sentimental attachment that is by its nature non-erotic.

Another school argues that the incest prohibition is a cultural construct that arises as a side effect of a general human preference for group exogamy. Intermarriage between groups construct valuable alliances that improve the ability for both groups to thrive. According to this view, the incest taboo is not necessarily a universal, but it is likely to arise and become stricter under cultural circumstances that favor exogamy over endogamy; it likely to become more lax under circumstances that favor endogamy. This hypothesis has also achieved some empirical support.

Societies that are stratified often prescribe different degrees of endogamy. Endogamy is the opposite of exogamy; it refers to the practice of marriage between members of the same social group. A classic example is seen in India’s caste system, in which unequal castes are endogamous. Inequality between ethnic groups and races also correlates with endogamy. Class, caste, ethnic and racial endogamy typically coexists with family exogamy and prohibitions against incest.

5.11 – Ideology

An ideology is a set of ideas that constitute one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things, as in several philosophical tendencies, or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer either change in society, or adherence to a set of ideals where conformity already exists, through a normative thought process. Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics.

In the Marxist account of ideology, it serves as an instrument of social reproduction. In the Marxist economic base and superstructure model of society, base denotes the relations of production, and superstructure denotes the dominant ideology (religious, legal, political systems). The economic base of production determines the political superstructure of a society. Ruling class-interests determine the superstructure and the nature of the justifying ideology—actions feasible because the ruling class control the means of production. Similarly, Louis Althusser proposed a materialistic conception of ideology using the concept of the ideological state apparatus. For Althusser, beliefs and ideas are the products of social practices, not the reverse. What is ultimately important for Althusser are not the subjective beliefs held in the “minds” of human individuals, but rather the material institutions, rituals, and discourses that produce these beliefs.

Many political parties base their political action and program on an ideology. A political ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths, or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society should work and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order. A political ideology largely concerns itself with how to allocate power and to what ends it should be used. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them.

5.12 – Resocialization and Total Institutions


Total Institutions: Prisons are examples of total institutions.

A total institution is a place of work and residence where a great number of similarly situated people, cut off from the wider community for a considerable time, lead an enclosed, formally administered life together. The term was coined by the American sociologist Erving Goffman. Within a total institution, the basic needs of a entire bloc of people are under bureaucratic control. These needs are handled in an impersonal and bureaucratic manner.

Goffman divided total institutions into five different types:

  1. Institutions established to care for harmless or incapable people, including orphanages, poor houses and nursing homes
  2. Institutions established to care for people that are incapable of looking after themselves and are also a threat to the community, including leprosarium, mental hospitals, and tuberculosis sanitariums
  3. Institutions organized to protect the community against perceived intentional dangers, with the welfare of the sequestered people not the immediate issue, including concentration camps, prisoner of war camps, penitentiaries and jails
  4. Institutions purportedly established to pursue some task, including colonial compounds, work camps, boarding schools, and ships
  5. Institutions designed as retreats from the world while also often serving as training stations for the religious, including convents, abbeys, and monasteries

The goal of total institutions is resocialization, the radical alteration of residents’ personalities by deliberately manipulating their environment. Key examples include the process of resocializing new recruits into the military so that they can operate as soldiers. Resocialization is a two-part process. First, the staff of the institution tries to erode the residents’ identities and independence. Second, resocialization involves the systematic attempt to build a different personality or self. This is generally done through a system of reward and punishment. The privilege of reading a book, watching television, or making a phone call can be a powerful motivator to conform. Conformity occurs when individuals change their behavior to fit in with the expectations of an authority figure or the expectations of a larger group.

6 – Gender Socialization

6.1 – Introduction

6.1.1 – Overview

Sociologists and other social scientists generally attribute many of the behavioral differences between men and women to socialization. Socialization is the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members. In regards to gender socialization, the most common groups people join are the gender categories male and female. Even the categorical options of gender an individual may choose is socialized; social norms act against selecting a gender that is neither male or female. Thus, gender socialization is the process of educating and instructing potential men and women how to behave as members of that particular group.

6.1.2 – Socialization before Birth

Preparations for gender socialization begin even before the birth of the child. One of the first questions people ask of expectant parents is whether the baby will be a boy or girl. This is the beginning of a social categorization process that continues throughout life. Preparations for the birth of the child often take the expected sex into consideration, such as painting the infant’s room pink or blue.

6.1.3 – Early Life Socialization

One illustration of early life gender socialization can be seen in preschool classrooms. Children in preschool classrooms where teachers were told to emphasize gender differences saw an increase in stereotyped views of what activities are appropriate for boys or girls, while children with teachers who did not emphasize gender showed no increase in stereotyped views. This clearly demonstrates the influence of socialization on the development of gender roles; subtle cues that surround us in our everyday lives strongly influence gender socialization.

6.1.4 – Adolescent Socialization

Gender Socialization in Infants: Preparations for the birth of the child often take the expected sex into consideration, such as painting the infant’s room pink or blue.

The process of gender socialization continues as adolescents enter the workforce. Research has found that adolescents encounter stereotypes of gendered performance in the workforce in their first jobs. First jobs are significantly segregated by sex. Girls work fewer hours and earn less per hour than boys. Hourly wages are higher in job types dominated by boys while girls are more frequently assigned housework and childcare duties. The impact of these first experiences in the professional world will shape adolescents’ perspectives on how men and women behave differently in the workforce.

6.2 – Learning the Gender Gap

The gender pay gap is the difference between male and female earnings expressed as a percentage of male earnings, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The European Commission defines it as the average difference between men and women’s hourly earnings. There is a debate as to what extent this is the result of gender differences, implicit discrimination due to lifestyle choices, or because of explicit discrimination. If it is a result of gender differences, then the pay gap is not a problem; men are simply better equipped to perform more valuable work than women. If it is a result of implicit discrimination due to lifestyle choices, then women’s lower earnings result from the fact that women typically take more time off when having children or choose to work fewer hours. If it is explicit discrimination, then the pay gap is a result of stereotypical beliefs, conscious or unconscious, from those who hire and set salaries.

Most who study the gender wage gap assume that it is not due to differences in ability between genders – while in general men may be better at physical labor, the pay gap persists in other employment sectors as well. This implies that the gender gap stems from social, rather than biological, origins.

Gender Pay Gap in the United States, 1980-2009: This graph depicts the female-to-male earnings ratio, median yearly earnings among full-time, year-round workers from 1980 to 2009.

In order to determine whether the gender gap is a result of implicit or explicit discrimination, we can look at the adjusted and unadjusted wage gap. The unadjusted wage gap refers to a measure of the wage gap that does not take into account differences in personal (e.g., age, education, the number of children, job tenure, occupation, and occupational crowding) and workplace (e.g., the economic sector and place of employment) characteristics between men and women. Parts of the raw pay gap can be attributed to the fact that women, for instance, tend to engage more often in part-time work and tend to work in lower paid industries. The remaining part of the raw wage gap that cannot be explained by variables that are thought to influence pay is then referred to as the adjusted gender pay gap and may be explicitly discriminatory.

The total wage gap in the United States is 20.4 percent. A study commissioned by the United States Department of Labor, prepared by Consad Research Corp, asserts that there are “observable differences in the attributes of men and women that account for most of the wage gap. Statistical analysis that includes those variables has produced results that collectively account for between 65.1 and 76.4 percent of a raw gender wage gap of 20.4 percent, and thereby leave an adjusted gender wage gap that is between 4.8 and 7.1 percent. ” Thus, only a relatively small part of the wage gap is due to explicit discrimination.

Gender Pay Gap in Europe: This PSA by the European Union illustrates the gender pay gap in Europe.

We can assume that the remainder (the gap attributed to the measured variables) is the result of implicit discrimination, that is, social forces that pressure women into working part time, to stay home with their children, to be less aggressive in pursuing promotions or raises, etc. A 2010 report by the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, for example, pointed out that “the major reasons for this gap are very often related to both horizontal and vertical segregation – or the fact that women tend to choose lower-paid professions, reach a ‘glass ceiling’ in their careers, or have their jobs valued less favourably. The origins of these factors could be judged as being discriminatory in themselves, that is, when they are rooted in gender stereotypes of male and female occupations. ”

6.3 – Gender Messages in the Family

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture in which they grow up, and that non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization. Social role theory proposes that social structure is the underlying force behind gender differences, and that the division of labor between two sexes within a society motivates the differences in their respective behavior. Division of labor creates gender roles, which in turn, lead to gender-specific social behavior.

Family is the most important agent of socialization because it serves as the center of a child’s life. Socialization theory tells us that primary socialization – the process that occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values and actions expected of individuals within a particular culture – is the most important phase of social development, and lays the groundwork for all future socialization. Therefore, the family plays a pivotal role in the child’s development, influencing both the attitudes the child will adopt and the values the child will hold. Socialization can be intentional or unintentional; the family may not be conscious of the messages it transmits, but these messages nonetheless contribute to the child’s socialization. Children learn continuously from the environment that adults create, including gender norms.

For example, a child who grows up in a two-parent household with a mother who acts as a homemaker and a father who acts as the breadwinner may internalize these gender roles, regardless of whether or not the family is directly teaching them. Likewise, if parents buy dolls for their daughters and toy trucks for their sons, the children will learn to value different things.

6.4 – Gender Messages from Peers

Female Peer Groups: Teenage cliques exert influence upon their members to conform to group standards, including group mores about gender.

Gender role theory posits that boys and girls learn the appropriate behavior and attitudes from the family and overall culture in which they grow up, and so non-physical gender differences are a product of socialization. Social role theory proposes that the social structure is the underlying force for gender differences. Social role theory proposes that sex-differentiated behavior is motivated by the division of labor between two sexes within a society. Division of labor creates gender roles, which in turn lead to gendered social behavior.

Peer groups can serve as a venue for teaching members gender roles. Gender roles refer to the set of social and behavioral norms that are considered socially appropriate for individuals of a specific sex in the context of a specific culture, and which differ widely across cultures and historical periods.

Through gender-role socialization, group members learn about sex differences, and social and cultural expectations. Biological males are not always masculine and biological females are not always feminine. Both genders can contain different levels of masculinity and femininity. Peer groups can consist of all males, all females, or both males and females.

Peer groups can have great influence on each other’s gender role behavior depending on the amount of pressure applied. If a peer group strongly holds to a conventional gender social norm, members will behave in ways predicted by their gender roles, but if there is not a unanimous peer agreement, gender roles do not correlate with behavior. There is much research that has been done on how gender affects learning within student peer groups. The purpose of a large portion of this research has been to see how gender affects peer cooperative groups, how that affects the relationships that students have within the school setting, and how gender can then affect attainment and learning. One thing that is an influence on peer groups is student behavior.

Knowing early on that children begin to almost restrict themselves to same-gendered groups, it is interesting to see how those interactions within groups take place. Boys tend to participate in more active and forceful activities in larger groups, away from adults, while girls were more likely to play in small groups, near adults. These gender differences are also representative of many stereotypical gender roles within these same-gendered groups. The stereotypes are less prominent when the groups are mixed-gendered.

When children do not conform to the appropriate gender role, they may face negative sanctions such as being criticized or marginalized by their peers. Though many of these sanctions are informal, they can be quite severe. For example, a girl who wishes to take karate class instead of dance lessons may be called a “tomboy,” facing difficulty gaining acceptance from both male and female peer groups. Boys, especially, are subject to intense ridicule for gender nonconformity.

6.5 – Gender Messages in Mass Media

Gender Messages in Mass Media: Traditional images of American gender roles reinforce the idea that women should be subordinate to men.

Gender socialization occurs through four major agents: family, education, peer groups, and mass media. Because mass media has enormous effects on our attitude and behavior, notably in regards to aggression, it is an important contributor to the socialization process. This is particularly true with regards to gender. In television and movies, women tend to have less significant roles than men. They are often portrayed as wives or mothers, rather than as main characters. When women are given a lead role, they are often one of two extremes: either a wholesome, saint-like figure or a malevolent, hyper-sexual figure. This same inequality is similarly pervasive in children’s movies. Research indicates that among the 101 top-grossing, G-rated movies released between 1990 and 2005, three out of every four characters were male. Out of those movies, only seven films were even close to having a balanced cast of characters, with a ratio of less than 1.5 male characters per 1 female character.

Gender Messages in Music: The music video for “PIMP,” a song by 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and G-Unit, demonstrates how gender messages are disseminated through mass media. In the video, women are objectified and portrayed as only existing to serve men, as evidenced by the fact that men walk women around on leashes in part of the video.

Television commercials and other forms of advertising reinforce inequality and gender-based stereotypes. Women almost exclusively appear in ads that promote cooking, cleaning, or childcare-related products. In general, women are underrepresented in roles, or ads, that reference leadership, intelligence, or a balanced psyche. Particularly concerning are instances when women are depicted in dehumanizing, oppressive ways, especially in music videos. The music video for “Pimp,” a song by 50 Cent, Snoop Dogg, and G-Unit, demonstrates how harmful gender messages can be disseminated through mass media. In the video, women are objectified and portrayed as only existing to serve men. They wear little clothing and are walked around on leashes by men, as if they were dogs and not humans.

7 – Socialization throughout the Life Span

7.1 – Introduction

7.1.1 – Overview

Socialization refers to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies that provide an individual with the skills necessary for participating within society. Socialization is a process that continues throughout an individual’s life. Some social scientists say socialization represents the process of learning throughout life and is a central influence on the behavior, beliefs and actions of adults as well as of children.

George Herbert Mead (1902–1994) developed the concept of self as developed with social experience. Since social experience is the exchange of symbols, people find meaning in every action, and seeking meaning leads people to imagine the intention of others from the others’ point of view. In effect, others are a mirror in which we can see ourselves. Charles Horton Cooley (1902-1983) coined the term “looking glass self;” the self -image based on how we think others see us. According to Mead, the key to developing the self is learning to take the role of the other. With limited social experience, infants can only develop a sense of identity through imitation. Children gradually learn to take the roles of several others. The final stage is the generalized other; the widespread cultural norms and values we use as a reference for evaluating others.

7.1.2 – Primary and Secondary Socialization

The socialization process can be divided into primary and secondary socialization. Primary socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. This is mainly influenced by the immediate family and friends. Secondary socialization is the process of learning what is the appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society. It is the behavioral patterns reinforced by socializing agents of society like schools and workplaces. For example, as new employees become socialized in an organization, they learn about its history, values, jargon, culture and procedures.

7.1.3 – The Life Course Approach

Life Course Approach: The life course approach studies the impact that sociocultural contexts have on an individual’s development, from infancy until old age.

The life course approach was developed in the 1960s for analyzing people’s lives within structural, social and cultural contexts. Origins of this approach can be traced to such pioneering studies as Thomas’s and Znaniecki’s “The Polish Peasant in Europe and America” from the 1920s or Mannheim’s essay on the “Problem of generations. ” The life course approach examines an individual’s life history and how early events influence future decisions.

7.2 – The Life Course

The life course approach, also known as the life course perspective, or life course theory, refers to an approach developed in the 1960s for analyzing people’s lives within structural, social, and cultural contexts. Origins of this approach can be traced to pioneering studies such as Thomas’s and Znaniecki’s “The Polish Peasant in Europe and America” from the 1920s or Mannheim’s essay on the “Problem of generations”.

Old Age: This man is well into his later years and depicts life in its final stages.

The life course approach examines an individual’s life history and sees for example how early events influence future decisions and events, giving particular attention to the connection between individuals and the historical and socioeconomic context in which they have lived. It holds that the events and roles that are part of the person’s life course do not necessarily proceed in a given sequence, but rather constitute the sum total of the person’s actual experience.

Infant: This picture depicts an individual at the earliest of life stages.

In a more general reading, human life is seen as often divided into various age spans such as infancy, toddler, childhood, adolescence, young adult, prime adulthood, middle age, and old age. These divisions are somewhat arbitrary, but generally capture periods of life that reflect a certain degree of similarity in development across cultures.

In many countries, such as Sweden and the United States, adulthood legally begins at the age of eighteen. This is a major age milestone that is marked by significantly different attitudes toward the person who undergoes the transition. This is an example that demonstrates the influence of developmental stages on legal determinations of life stages, and thus, attitudes towards people at different stages of the human life course.

7.3 – Anticipatory Socialization and Resocialization

7.3.1 – Anticipatory Socialization

Anticipatory socialization is the process by which non-group-members adopt the values and standards of groups that they aspire to join, so as to ease their entry into the group and help them interact appropriately once they have been accepted. It involves changing one’s attitudes and behaviors in preparation for a shift in one’s role. Practices commonly associated with anticipatory socialization include grooming, play-acting, training, and rehearsing. Examples of anticipatory socialization include law school students learning how to behave like lawyers, older people preparing for retirement, and Mormon boys getting ready to become missionaries.

Anticipatory socialization was first defined by sociologist Robert K. Merton. It has its origins in a 1949 study of the United States military which found that privates who modeled their attitudes and behaviors on those of officers were more likely to be promoted than those who did not.

When people are blocked from access to a group they might have wanted to join, they reject that group’s values and norms. Instead, they begin an anticipatory socialization process with groups that are more receptive to them. One example of this is the case of economically disadvantaged teenagers who seek to become drug dealers rather than professionals. While some critics would claim that these individuals lack motivation, some sociologists say they are simply making a pragmatic adjustment to the opportunities available to them.

7.3.2 – Resocialization

Guitar Lessons: The young woman is interacting with her professor in anticipation of being associated with other guitarists

Resocialization is defined as radically changing someone’s personality by carefully controlling their environment. Total institutions aim to radically alter residents’ personalities through deliberate manipulation of their environment. Key examples include the process of resocializing new recruits into the military so that they can operate as soldiers (or, in other words, as members of a cohesive unit) and the reverse process, in which those who have become accustomed to such roles return to society after military discharge. Resocialization may also be required for inmates who come out of prison and need to acclimate themselves back into civilian life.

Resocialization is a two-part process. First, the staff of the institution tries to erode the residents’ identities and sense of independence. Strategies include forcing individuals to surrender all personal possessions, cut their hair in a uniform manner, and wear standardized clothing. Independence can be eroded by subjecting residents to humiliating and degrading procedures. Examples include strip searches, fingerprinting, and replacing residents’ given names with serial numbers or code names. Second, resocialization involves the systematic attempt to build a different personality or self. This is generally accomplished through a system of rewards and punishments. The privilege of reading a book, watching television, or making a phone call can be powerful motivation to conform. Conformity occurs when individuals change their behavior to fit the expectations of an authority figure or the expectations of a larger group.

7.4 – Stages of Socialization throughout the Life Span

Socialization is a life process, but is generally divided into two parts: primary and secondary socialization.

Primary Socialization: The nuclear family serves as the primary force of socialization for young children.

Primary socialization takes place early in life, as a child and adolescent. Secondary socialization refers to the socialization that takes place throughout one’s life, both as a child and as one encounters new groups that require additional socialization. While there are scholars who argue that only one or the other of these occurs, most social scientists tend to combine the two, arguing that the basic or core identity of the individual develops during primary socialization, with more specific changes occurring later—secondary socialization—in response to the acquisition of new group memberships and roles and differently structured social situations. The need for later-life socialization may stem from the increasing complexity of society with its corresponding increase in varied roles and responsibilities.

Secondary Socialization: By the time individuals are in their preteen or teenage years, peer groups play a more powerful role in socialization than family members.

Mortimer and Simmons outline three specific ways these two parts of socialization differ:

  1. Content: Socialization in childhood is thought to be concerned with the regulation of biological drives. In adolescence, socialization is concerned with the development of overarching values and the self-image. In adulthood, socialization involves more overt and specific norms and behaviors, such as those related to the work role as well as more superficial personality features.
  2. Context: In earlier periods, the socializee (the person being socialized) more clearly assumes the status of learner within the context of the initial setting (which may be a family of orientation, an orphanage, a period of homelessness, or any other initial social groups at the beginning of a child’s life), the school (or other educational context), or the peer group. Also, relationships in the earlier period are more likely to be affectively charged, i.e., highly emotional. In adulthood, though the socializee takes the role of student at times, much socialization occurs after the socializee has assumed full incumbency of the adult role. There is also a greater likelihood of more formal relationships due to situational contexts (e.g., work environment), which moderates down the affective component.
  3. Response: The child and adolescent may be more easily malleable than the adult. Also, much adult socialization is self-initiated and voluntary; adults can leave or terminate the process at any time if they have the proper resources (symbolic, financial, and social) to do so.

Socialization is, of course, a social process. As such, it involves interactions between people. Socialization, as noted in the distinction between primary and secondary, can take place in multiple contexts and as a result of contact with numerous groups. Some of the more significant contributors to the socialization process are: parents, guardians, friends, schools, siblings or other family members, social clubs (like religions or sports teams), life partners (romantic or platonic), and co-workers. Each of these groups include a culture that must be learned and to some degree appropriated by the socializee in order to gain admittance to the group.

7.5 – Childhood

7.5.1 – Introduction

Childhood is the age span ranging from birth to adolescence. In developmental psychology, childhood is divided up into the developmental stages of toddlerhood (learning to walk), early childhood (play age), middle childhood (school age), and adolescence ( puberty through post-puberty).

7.5.2 – Age Ranges of Childhood

The term childhood is non-specific and can imply a varying range of years in human development, depending on biological, personal, religious, cultural, or national interpretations. Developmentally and biologically, it refers to the period between infancy and puberty. In common terms, childhood is considered to start from birth. Some consider that childhood, as a concept of play and innocence, ends at adolescence. In the legal systems of many countries, there is an age of majority at which point childhood officially ends and a person legally becomes an adult. Globally, the age of majority ranges anywhere from 15 to 21, with 18 being the most common.

7.5.3 – Developmental Stages of Childhood

Early childhood follows the infancy stage and begins with toddlerhood, reached when the child begins speaking or taking steps independently. Toddlerhood ends around age three when the child becomes less dependent on parental assistance for basic needs and early childhood continues approximately through years seven or eight. According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, early childhood spans the from birth to age eight.

In most western societies, middle childhood begins at around age seven or eight, approximating primary school age and ends around puberty, which typically marks the beginning of adolescence.

Adolescence is usually determined by the onset of puberty. However, puberty may also begin in preadolescents. The end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood varies by country. Even within a single nation- state or ethic group there may be different conceptions of when an individual is considered to be (chronologically and legally) mature enough to be entrusted by society with certain tasks.

7.5.4 – Modern Concepts of Childhood

The concept of childhood appears to evolve and change shape as lifestyles change and adult expectations alter. Some believe that children should not have any worries and should not have to work; life should be happy and trouble-free. Childhood is generally a time of playing, learning, socializing, exploring, and worrying in a world without much adult interference, aside from parents. It is a time of learning about responsibilities without having to deal with adult responsibilities.

Childhood is often retrospectively viewed as a time of innocence. According to this view, children have yet to be negatively influenced by society and are naive, rather than ignorant. A “loss of innocence” is a common concept, and is often seen as an integral part of coming of age. It is usually thought of as an experience or period in a child’s life that widens their awareness of evil, pain or the world around them. This theme is demonstrated in the novels To Kill a Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies. The fictional character Peter Pan is the embodiment of a childhood that never ends.

7.5.5 – Play

Play is essential to the cognitive, physical, social, and emotional well-being of children. It offers children opportunities for physical (running, jumping, climbing, etc.), intellectual (social skills, community norms, ethics, and general knowledge) and emotional development (empathy, compassion, and friendships). Unstructured play encourages creativity and imagination and allows children to interact with the world around them. Playing and interacting with other children, as well as with some adults, provides opportunities for friendships, social interactions, practicing adult roles, and resolving conflicts.

Play: Play is essential for the cognitive, physical, and social wellbeing of children.

Undirected play allows children to learn how to work in groups, to share, to negotiate, to resolve conflicts, and to learn self-advocacy skills. However, when play is controlled by adults, children acquiesce to adult rules and concerns and lose some of the benefits play offers them, particularly in developing creativity, leadership, and group skills.

Play is considered to be so important to optimal child development that it has been recognized by the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights as a right of every child. Raising children in a hurried and pressured style may limit the benefits they would gain from child-driven play.

Kids playing in the street: Children street culture transforms seemingly normal places into imaginative worlds

American culture considers outdoor play as an essential part of childhood. However, the reality is that children are increasingly playing indoors. Nature Deficit Disorder, a term coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book Last Child in the Woods, refers to the alleged trend in the United States that children are spending less time outdoors, resulting in a wide range of behavioral problems. With the advent of the computer, video games, and television, children have more reasons to stay inside rather than outdoors exploring. On average, American children spend forty-four hours per week with electronic media. Parents are also keeping children indoors in order to protect them from their growing fear of stranger danger.

7.6 – Adolescence

7.6.1 – Introduction

Adolescence is a transitional stage of physical and psychological human development, generally occurring between puberty and legal adulthood. Though the period of adolescence is most closely associated with the teenage years, chronological age provides only a rough marker of adolescence, and scholars have found it difficult to agree upon a precise definition. Thus, a thorough understanding of adolescence depends on information from various perspectives, most importantly from the areas of psychology, biology, history, sociology, education, and anthropology. Within all of these disciplines, adolescence is viewed as a transitional period between childhood with the purpose of preparing children for adult roles.

The end of adolescence and the beginning of adulthood varies by country and by function. Even within a single nation-state or culture, there can be different ages at which an individual is considered to be (chronologically and legally) mature enough to handle certain tasks. In the west, such “coming of age” milestones include driving a vehicle, having legal sexual relations, serving in the armed forces or on a jury, purchasing and drinking alcohol, voting, entering into contracts, completing certain levels of education, and marrying. Adolescence is usually accompanied by increased independence and less supervision by parents or legal guardians.

The study of adolescent development often involves interdisciplinary collaborations. For example, researchers in neuroscience or bio-behavioral health might focus on pubertal changes in brain structure and its effects on cognition or social relations. Sociologists interested in adolescence might focus on the acquisition of social roles (e.g., worker or romantic partner) and how this varies across cultures or social conditions. Developmental psychologists might focus on changes in relations with parents and peers as a function of school structure and pubertal status.

7.6.2 – Peer Relationships

Peer groups are especially important during adolescence, a period of development characterized by a dramatic increase in time spent with peers and a decrease in adult supervision. Adolescents also associate with friends of the opposite sex much more than in childhood and tend to identify with larger groups of peers based on shared characteristics.

Peer groups offer members the opportunity to develop various social skills like empathy, sharing and leadership. They can have positive influences on an individual, including academic motivation and performance. They can also have negative influences and lead to an increase in experimentation with drugs, drinking, vandalism, and stealing. Susceptibility to peer pressure increases during early adolescence, peaks around age 14, and declines thereafter.

During early adolescence, adolescents often associate in cliques; exclusive, single-sex groups of peers with whom they are particularly close. Toward late adolescence, cliques often merge into mixed-sex groups as teenagers begin romantically engaging with one another. These small friend groups break down even further as socialization becomes more couple-oriented. Despite the common notion that cliques are an inherently negative influence, they may help adolescents become socially acclimated and form a stronger sense of identity.

7.6.3 – Romance and Sexual Activity

Romantic relationships tend to increase in prevalence throughout adolescence. By age 15, 53 percent of adolescents have had a romantic relationship that lasted at least one month over the course of the previous 18 months. A 2002 American study found that the average age of first sexual intercourse was 17 for males and 17.3 for females. As individuals develop into mature adolescents, there is an increase in the likelihood of a long-term relationship, which can be explained by sexual maturation and the development of cognitive skills necessary to maintain a romantic bond (e.g. caregiving, appropriate attachment). Long-term relationships allow adolescents to gain skills necessary for high-quality relationships later in life and contribute to development of feelings of self-worth.

Adolescence marks a time of sexual maturation, which impacts the types of social interactions adolescents maintain. While adolescents may engage in casual sexual encounters (often referred to as hookups in the United States), most sexual experience during this period of development takes place within romantic relationships.

7.6.4 – Autonomy

Adolescent Flirtation: Adolescence is a time of social and sexual exploration.

Adolescents strive for autonomy. According to McElhaney et al., there are three ways in which autonomy can be described:

  1. Emotional autonomy is the development of more adult-like close relationship with adults and peers
  2. Behavioral autonomy, is the ability to make independent decisions and follow through with them
  3. Cognitive autonomy is characterized as the manifestation of an independent set of beliefs, values and opinions

7.7 – Transitional Adulthood

7.7.1 – Introduction

“Coming of age” refers to a young person’s transition from childhood to adulthood. The age at which this transition takes place varies among different societies, as does the nature of the transition. It can be a simple legal convention or can be part of a larger ritual. In some societies today, such changes are associated with the arrival of sexual maturity in early adolescence; in others, it is associated with the arrival of an age at which point one carries religious responsibilities. In western societies, legal conventions stipulate points in late adolescence or early adulthood that mark the age of maturity are the focus of the transition. Still, many cultures retain ceremonies to confirm the coming of age and benefits come with the change.

7.7.2 – Religion

Religion is often a determinant of when and how individuals come of age.

When members of the Baha’i faith turn 15, they reach the “age of maturity” and are considered spiritually mature, and are responsible for individually determining whether they wish to remain members of Baha’i. Those who declare that they wish to remain members of Baha’i are expected to begin observing certain Baha’i laws, such as obligatory prayer and fasting.

In many Christian churches, a young person celebrates his or her coming of age with the Sacrament of Confirmation. Some traditions withhold the rite of Holy Communion from those not yet at the age of accountability on the grounds that children do not understand what the sacrament means. In some denominations, full membership in the church, if not bestowed at birth, often must wait until the age of accountability, and is frequently granted only after a period of preparation known as catechesis. The time of innocence before one has the ability to understand truly the laws of God, and during which God sees one as innocent, is also seen as applying to individuals who suffer from a mental disability which prevents them from ever reaching a time when they are capable of understanding the laws of God. These individuals are thus seen as existing in a perpetual state of innocence by the grace of God.

In Hinduism, coming of age generally signifies that a boy or girl are mature enough to understand his responsibility towards family and society. Hinduism also has the sacred thread ceremony for Dvija (twice-born) boys that marks their coming of age to do religious ceremonies. Women often celebrate their coming to age by having a ceremony. This ceremony includes dressing themselves in saris and announcing their maturity to the community

In Islam, children are not required to perform any obligatory acts of Islamic teachings prior to reaching the age of puberty, although they should be encouraged to begin praying at the age of seven. Before reaching puberty it is recommended to pray in obeisance to Allah and to exemplify Islamic customs, but as soon as one exhibits any characteristic of puberty, that person is required to perform the prayers and other obligations of Islam.

In the Jewish faith, boys reach religious maturity at the age of 13, signified by their bar mitzvah ceremony. Girls are believed to mature earlier and can have their bat mitzvah at the age of 12. Once the ritual is done, the new men and women are looked upon as adults and are expected to uphold the Jewish commandments and laws.

7.7.3 – Professional Initiatory Rituals

Bar Mitzvah: This thirteen-year-old boy is dressed in the religious garb and symbols of the Jewish faith on the day of his bar mitzvah. He is about to be recognized as an adult by the Jewish community.

Coming of age initiation rituals can occur in various professional organizations. In many universities of Europe, South America and India, first year students are made to undergo tests or humiliation before being accepted as students. Perhaps the oldest of these is “Raisin Monday,” which is still ongoing is at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. A senior student will take a new student and show him or her around the university. In gratitude, the new student will give the senior student a pound of raisins, for which the senior student gave receipts. If a new student later fails to produce the receipt that demonstrated his gift upon command, he could be thrown into a fountain.

Universities in Chile follow an annual ritual called “Mechoneo” (the act of pulling somebody’s hair). First year students are initiated by theatrical “punishment. ” Freshmen are tied together while upperclassmen throw them eggs, flour, water, etc. Some universities have traditional ways of initiating freshmen. In the United States, these sorts of initiation rituals are most commonly found in fraternities and sororities. Greek organizations may have different processes for associate members, also known as pledges, to become a member.

7.8 – Marriage and Responsibility

Marriage is a governmentally, socially, or religiously recognized interpersonal relationship, usually intimate and sexual, that is often created as a form of contract. The most frequently occurring form of marriage is between a woman and a man, where the feminine term wife and the masculine husband are generally used to describe the parties to the contract. Some countries and American states recognize same-sex marriage, but gaining recognition for these unions is a legal battle occurring around the world.

Same-Sex Marriage: In some states and countries, homosexual couples can get legally married.

The ceremony in which a marriage is enacted and announced to the community is called a wedding. The reasons people marry vary widely, but usually include publicly and formally declare their love, the formation of a single household unit, legitimizing sexual relations and procreation, social and economic stability, and the education and nurturing of children. A marriage can be declared by a wedding ceremony, which may be performed either by a religious officiator or through a similar government-sanctioned secular process. The act of marriage creates obligations between the individuals involved and, in some societies, between the parties’ extended families. Marriages are perpetual agreements with legal consequences, terminated only by the death of one party or by formal dissolution processes, such as divorce and annulment.

Schwartz and Mare examined trends in marriage over time and found that the old maxim “opposites attract” is less accurate of marriage than the maxim “birds of a feather flock together. ” Their research focused on one specific similarity in marital partners: education. They found that the correlation of educational levels of American married couples decreased in similarity slightly after World War II, but has since increased substantially. As of 2003, one’s level of educational attainment was a significant predictor of the educational attainment of one’s spouse. People without a high school diploma are unlikely to marry someone with more educational attainment and people with a college degree are likely to marry people with a similar level of educational attainment. Part of the reason why education is so influential in determining the level of education of one’s spouse is because people tend to form groups based on levels of education. First, there are the groups formed in the process of becoming educated; many people meet their spouses at school. But jobs after one completes his or her education also tend to be grouped by level of education. As a result, people spend more time with individuals of a similar level of educational attainment. As most people tend to marry or partner with individuals with whom they spend a lot of time, it is not surprising that there is significant educational similarity between spouses.

Wedding: In many countries, heterosexual weddings have the women dress in traditional white with a veil and the men in a tuxedo.

One well-known attribute of marriage is that it tends to have health benefits. Happily married people tend to be healthier than unmarried people. However, unhappily married couples may not receive the same health benefits and may actually be less healthy than their single peers.

7.9 – The Middle Years

Middle Age: Diana DeGette, a politician from Colorado, was born in 1957 and is in the middle age stage of life.

Middle age is the period of age beyond young adulthood but before the onset of old age. Various attempts have been made to define this age, which is around the third quarter of the average life span. The U.S. Census lists middle age as including people aged from 35 to 54, while developmental psychologist Erik Erikson argues that middle adulthood occurs from the age of 40 until 65.

Middle-aged adults often show visible signs of aging such as the loss of skin elasticity and the graying of hair. Physical fitness usually wanes, with a 5–10 kg (10-20 lb) accumulation of body fat, reduction in aerobic performance and a decrease in maximal heart rate. Strength and flexibility also decrease throughout middle age. However, people age at different rates and there can be significant differences between individuals of the same age.

Both male and female fertility declines with advancing age. Advanced maternal age increases the risk of a child being born with some disorders, such as Down syndrome. Advanced paternal age sharply increases the risk of miscarriage, as well as Down syndrome, schizophrenia, autism, and bipolar disorder. Middle aged women will experience menopause, which ends natural fertility, in their late 40s or early 50s.

In developed countries, mortality begins to increase more noticeably each year from age 40 onwards, mainly due to age-related health problems, such as heart disease and cancer. However, the majority of middle-age people in industrialized nations can expect to live into old age. In general, life expectancy in developing countries is much lower and the risk of death at all ages is higher.

However, well-being involves more than merely physical factors, and middle age is not experienced as a “time of decline” for healthy people. Middle-aged people benefit from greater life experience than they had when they were young; this contributes to happiness and makes emotional responses to stress less volatile.

7.10 – Parenthood

7.10.1 – Introduction

Parenting is the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. Parenting refers to the aspects of raising a child aside from the biological relationship. Parenting is usually carried out by the biological parents of the child in question, although governments and society take a role as well.

Social class, wealth, and income have the strongest impact on what methods of child rearing parents use. Understanding parenting styles help us understand how those styles contribute to the behavior and development of children.

7.10.2 – Parenting Styles

Developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind identified three main parenting styles in early child development: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. These parenting styles were later expanded to four, including an uninvolved style. These four styles of parenting involve combinations of acceptance and responsiveness on the one hand, and demand and control on the other.

  • Authoritarian parenting styles can be very rigid and strict. If rules are not followed, punishment is most often used to ensure obedience. There is usually no explanation for punishment except that the child is in trouble and should listen accordingly.
  • Authoritative parenting relies on positive reinforcement and infrequent use of punishment. Parents are more aware of a child’s feelings and capabilities, and they support the development of a child’s autonomy within reasonable limits. There is a give-and-take atmosphere involved in parent-child communication, and both control and support are exercised in authoritative parenting.
  • Permissive or Indulgent parenting is most popular in middle class families in Western culture. In these family settings, a child’s freedom and autonomy are valued and parents tend to rely mostly on reasoning and explanation. There tends to be little if any punishment or rules in this style of parenting and children are said to be free from external constraints.
  • An uninvolved parenting style is when parents are often emotionally absent and sometimes even physically absent. They have no little to no expectation of the child and regularly have no communication. They are not responsive to a child’s needs to do not demand anything of them in their behavioral expectations.

There is no single or definitive model of parenting. What may be right for one family or one child may not be suitable for another, although research shows that the authoritative parenting style is extremely effective and yields self-reliant, cheerful, and friendly children.

7.10.3 – Various Parenting Practices

  • Attachment Parenting: working strengthen the intuitive, psychological, and emotional bond between the primary caregiver and the child
  • Helicopter Parenting: over-parenting; parents are constantly involving themselves, interrupting the child’s ability to function on their own
  • Narcissistic Parenting: parents are driven by their own needs; their children are an extension of their own identity; use their children to live out their dreams
  • Positive Parenting: unconditional support, guiding them and supporting them for healthy development
  • Slow Parenting: allowing the child to develop their own interests and allowing them to grow into their own person; lots of family time; allowing children to make their own decisions; limit electronics, simplistic toys
  • Spiritual Parenting: respecting the child’s individuality; making space for child to develop a sense of their own beliefs through their personality and their own potentials
  • Strict Parenting: focused on strict discipline; demanding, with high expectations from the parents
  • Toxic Parenting: poor parenting; complete disruption of the child’s ability to identify one’s self and reduced self-esteem; neglecting the needs of the child and abuse is sometimes seen in this parenting style
  • Unconditional Parenting: giving unconditional positive encouragement

7.10.4 – Parenting across the Lifespan

Parenting: Parents have to tend more to children’s basic needs when they are young.

Family planning is the decision whether and when to become parents, including planning, preparing, and gathering resources. Parents should assess whether they have the required financial resources (the raising of a child costs around $16,198 yearly in the United States). They should also assess whether their family situation is stable enough and whether they themselves are responsible and qualified enough to raise a child. Reproductive health and preconceptional care affect pregnancy, reproductive success, and maternal and child physical and mental health. During pregnancy, the unborn child is affected by many decisions that his or her parents make, particularly choices linked to their lifestyle. The health and diet decisions of the mother can have either a positive or negative impact on the child in utero.

It is important to realize that parenting doesn’t end when a child turns 18. Support is needed in a child’s life well beyond the adolescent years and continues into middle and later adulthood. Parental support is crucial in helping children figure out who they are and where they fit in the world. Parenting is a lifelong process.

7.11 – Career Development: Vocation and Identity

Professional Vocations: In common parlance, a vocation refers to one’s professional line of work or career, such as being a doctor.

A vocation is a term for an occupation to which a person is especially drawn or for which he or she is suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

Use of the word “vocation” before the sixteenth century referred firstly to the “call” by God to the individual, or calling of all humankind to salvation, particularly in the Vulgate, and more specifically to the “vocation to the priesthood,” which is still the usual sense in Roman Catholicism.

The idea of vocation is central to the Christian belief that God has created each person with gifts and talents oriented toward specific purposes and a way of life. This idea of vocation is especially associated with a divine call to service to the Church and humanity through particular vocational life commitments, such as marriage to a particular person, consecration as a religious, ordination to priestly ministry in the Church, and even a holy life as a single person. In the broader sense, Christian vocation includes the use of one’s gifts in their profession, family life, church, and civic commitments for the sake of the greater common good.

Since the origination of Vocational Guidance in 1908, by the engineer Frank Parsons, the use of the term “vocation” has evolved to include the notion of using our talents and capabilities to good effect in choosing and enjoying a career. This semantic expansion has meant some diminishment of reference to the term’s religious meanings in everyday usage.

7.12 – The Older Years

The boundary between middle age and old age cannot be defined exactly because it does not have the same meaning in all societies. People can be considered old because of certain changes in their activities or social roles. For example, people may be considered old when they become grandparents, or when they begin to do less or different work (retirement). Traditionally, the age of 60 was generally seen as the beginning of old age. Most developed world countries have accepted the chronological age of 65 years as a definition of an “elderly” or older person.

According to Erik Erikson’s “Eight Stages of Life” theory, the human personality is developed in a series of eight stages that take place from the time of birth and continue on throughout an individual’s complete life. He characterizes old age as a period of “Integrity vs. Despair,” during which a person focuses on reflecting back on their life. Those who are unsuccessful during this phase will feel that their life has been wasted and will experience many regrets. The individual will be left with feelings of bitterness and despair. Those who feel proud of their accomplishments will feel a sense of integrity. Successfully completing this phase means looking back with few regrets and a general feeling of satisfaction. These individuals will attain wisdom, even when confronting death.

Age discrimination is a prevalent social problem facing the elderly. While discrimination toward the young is primarily visible through behavioral restrictions, discrimination toward the elderly ranges from behavioral restrictions to physical abuse. Abuse of the elderly is a serious problem in the U.S. There are nearly two million cases of elder abuse and self-neglect in the U.S. every year. Abuse refers to psychological/emotional abuse, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and caregiver neglect or financial exploitation, while self-neglect refers to behaviors that threaten the person’s own health and safety.

7.13 – Are We Prisoners of Socialization?

Some experts assert that who we are is a result of nurture—the relationships and caring that surround us. Others argue that who we are is based entirely in genetics. According to this belief, our temperaments, interests, and talents are set before birth. From this perspective, then, who we are depends on nature.

One way that researchers attempt to prove the impact of nature is by studying twins. Some studies followed identical twins who were raised separately. The pairs shared the same genetics, but, in some cases, were socialized in different ways. Instances of this type of situation are rare, but studying the degree to which identical twins raised apart are the same and different can give researchers insight into how our temperaments, preferences, and abilities are shaped by our genetic makeup versus our social environment.

For example, in 1968, twin girls born to a mentally ill mother were put up for adoption. However, they were also separated from each other and raised in different households. The parents, and certainly the babies, did not realize they were one of five pairs of twins who were made subjects of a scientific study (Flam 2007).

In 2003, the two women, then age 35, reunited. Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein sat together in awe, feeling like they were looking into a mirror. Not only did they look alike, but they behaved alike, using the same hand gestures and facial expressions (Spratling 2007). Studies like these point to the genetic roots of our temperament and behavior.

Though genetics and hormones play an important role in human behavior, sociology’s larger concern is the effect that society has on human behavior, the “nurture” side of the nature versus nurture debate. What race were the twins? From what social class were their parents? What about gender? Religion? All of these factors affect the lives of the twins as much as their genetic makeup and are critical to consider as we look at life through the sociological lens.

Nature or Nurture?: “Nature versus nurture” describes the debate over the influence of biological versus social influences in socialization.

Sociologists all recognize the importance of socialization for healthy individual and societal development. But how do scholars working in the three major theoretical paradigms approach this topic? Structural functionalists would say that socialization is essential to society, both because it trains members to operate successfully within it and because it perpetuates culture by transmitting it to new generations. Without socialization, a society’s culture would perish as members died off. A conflict theorist might argue that socialization reproduces inequality from generation to generation by conveying different expectations and norms to those with different social characteristics. For example, individuals are socialized differently by gender, social class, and race. As in the illustration of Chris Langan, this creates different (unequal) opportunities. An interactionist studying socialization is concerned with face-to-face exchanges and symbolic communication. For example, dressing baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink is one small way that messages are conveyed about differences in gender roles.

Socialization is important because it helps uphold societies and cultures; it is also a key part of individual development. Research demonstrates that who we are is affected by both nature (our genetic and hormonal makeup) and nurture (the social environment in which we are raised). Sociology is most concerned with the way that society’s influence affects our behavior patterns, made clear by the way behavior varies across class and gender.

8 – Childhood Socialization

8.1 – Child Socialization

Girl on a Playground: Playgrounds and other social situations contribute to secondary child socialization.

Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and educationalists to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society. Socialization is thus “the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained. ” There are many different forms of socialization, but two types are particularly important for children. These two types are known as primary and secondary socialization.

Primary socialization in sociology is the acceptance and learning of a set of norms and values established through the process of socialization. Primary socialization for a child is very important because it sets the groundwork for all future socialization. Primary socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. It is mainly influenced by the immediate family and friends. For example if a child saw his or her mother expressing a discriminatory opinion about a minority group, then that child may think this behavior is acceptable and could continue to have this opinion about minority groups.

Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what is the appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society. Basically, it is the behavioral patterns reinforced by socializing agents of society. Secondary socialization takes place outside the home. It is where children and adults learn how to act in a way that is appropriate for the situations they are in. Schools require very different behavior from the home, and children must act according to new rules. New teachers have to act in a way that is different from pupils and learn the new rules from people around them. Secondary socialization is usually associated with teenagers and adults, and involves smaller changes than those occurring in primary socialization.

8.2 – Theoretical Perspectives on Childhood Socialization

8.2.1 – Introduction

Since the nineteenth century, childhood has been perceived as a unique phase in an individual’s life, and sociological theories reflect this. The main theories that psychologists and social scientists rely on today were developed in the twentieth century and beyond. These theories seek to understand why childhood is a unique period in one’s life and the elements of the cognitive and social development that occur in childhood. This chapter seeks to give a brief introduction to various theoretical perspectives on childhood.

Twentieth-century Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud was one of the first psychologists to theorize childhood and the significance of developmental stages. Freud believed that sexual drive, or libido, was the driving force of all human behavior and, accordingly, developed a psychosexual theory of human development. Children progress through five stages, each association with sexual satisfaction through a particular body part.

One of the most widely applied theories of childhood is Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Piaget posited that children learn actively through play. He suggested that the adult’s role in helping a child learn is to provide appropriate materials for the child to interact and construct. He encouraged adults to make childhood learning through play even more effective by asking the child questions to get them to reflect upon behaviors. He believed it was instructive for children to see contradictions in their explanations. His approach to childhood development has been embraced by schools, and the pedagogy of preschools in the United States.

8.2.2 – Piaget’s Four Stages of Development

Sigmund Freud: Sigmund Freud developed the psychosexual theory of human development.

Piaget outlined four stages in one’s development to adulthood:

  • The first of Piaget’s stages of development is the sensorimotor stage, which lasts from birth until about age two. During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment, such as his parents or a toy, continue to exist even though they may be outside of his sensory field. This observation is called object permanence.
  • The sensorimotor stage is followed by the preoperational stage, which begins about the time that the child begins to talk and lasts until about age seven. The developments associated with the preoperational phase all extend from the child learning how to deploy his new linguistic capabilities. The child begins to use symbols to represent objects. Children absorb information and fit it into preexisting categories in their minds.
  • Next, children progress to the concrete operational phase, which lasts from about first grade to early adolescence. During this stage, children more easily accommodate ideas that do not fit their preexisting worldview. The child begins to think abstractly and make rational decisions based on observable or concrete phenomena.
  • Finally, children enter the formal operational stage, which begins in adolescence and carries them through adulthood. This person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements and is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.

8.2.3 – Ecological Systems Theory

In 1979, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner published The Ecology of Human Development, setting forth his theory known as ecological systems theory. Also called development in context theory or human ecology theory, the ecology systems theory specifies five different types of nested environmental systems: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. Each of these systems exerts influence on an individual, particularly children as they are robustly socialized.

  • The microsystem refers to the institutions and groups that most immediately and directly impact the child’s development, including the child’s family, school, religious institution, neighborhood, and peer group.
  • The mesosystem recognizes that no microsystem can be entirely discrete and refers to the relationship between microsystems. For example, a child who has been completely abandoned by his family might find it difficult to bond with teachers.
  • The exosystem describes the link between a social setting in which the individual does not have an active role an the individual’s immediate context. For example, a child’s experience at home may be impacted by a mother’s experience at work.
  • The macrosystem refers to the culture in which individuals live. A child, his school, and his parents are all part of a cultural context whose constituents are united by a sense of common identity, heritage, and values. Microsystems, and therefore mesosystems and exosystems, are impossible to understand when divorced from their macrosystemic context.
  • The chronosystem refers to the patterning of environmental events and transitions over one’s life course, as well as broader sociohistorical developments. For example, the impact of divorces on children has varied over history. When divorce was more culturally stigmatized, it had a different effect on children than today, when many children have divorced parents.

8.3 – Identity Formation

National Identity: Fourth of July celebrations, during which Americans dress in red, white, and blue, are manifestations of national identity. Fourth of July is only meaningful as a celebration of independence for individuals who share a sense of national identity as Americans.

Identity formation is the development of an individual’s distinct personality, which is regarded as a persisting entity in a particular stage of life by which a person is recognized or known. This process defines individuals to others and themselves. Pieces of the individual’s actual identity include a sense of continuity, a sense of uniqueness from others, and a sense of affiliation. Identity formation clearly influences personal identity by which the individual thinks of him or herself as a discrete and separate entity. This may be through individuation whereby the undifferentiated individual tends to become unique, or undergoes stages through which differentiated facets of a person’s life tend toward becoming a more indivisible whole.

Individuals gain a social identity and group identity by their affiliations. Self-concept is the sum of a being’s knowledge and understanding of himself. Self-concept is different from self-consciousness, which is an awareness of one’s self. Components of self-concept include physical, psychological, and social attributes, which can be influenced by the individual’s attitudes, habits, beliefs, and ideas. Cultural identity is one’s feeling of identity affiliation to a group or culture.

Similarly, an ethnic identity is the identification with a certain ethnicity, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. Further, national identity is an ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations. Members of a nation share a common identity and usually a common origin in their sense of ancestry, parentage, or descent. Lastly, a religious identity is the set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as faith and mystic experience.

Originally published by Lumen Learning – Boundless Sociology under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.