This is a free example essay on Socialization:
Nature versus nurture:
According to one side of the debate, individuals and social behavior are a product of heredity or nature. The others say that individual and social behavior are a product of experience and learning or nurture. Darwin pushed the nature viewpoint in his theory of evolution. “Humans are a product of natural processes”, he said. Evolutionary theorist used his theory to explain cross cultural differences and social inequalities. According to this, the dominant positions the Europeans occupied in the world was a result of natural selection – Asian, African and other people were regarded as biologically inferior. Within a group, people were believed to be rich and poor due to “survival of the fittest”. The concept of survival of the fittest was used to justify genocide.
In the 20th century the pendulum swayed toward “nurture”. Pavlov experimented to show that dogs could be taught to salivate even at the sound of a bell, Skinner showed that pigeons could be taught ping-pong. The experiments were done through “reward” and “punishment”. These social scientists argued that human mind is equally malleable. It was believed that human mind is tabula rasa, upon which experience writes.
Watson wrote: Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-informed, and my own specified world, to bring them up in, and I’ll guarantee to take any one at random and train him to become any type of specialist I might select – doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant chief and, yes, even beggar man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race.(1924). In other words, for behaviorists, socialization is everything.
According to sociobiology, biological principles may be used to explain social activities of social animals including humans. According to sociobiology, human sexual behavior and courtship are based on inborn traits. They point out that in most animals, males are much larger and more aggressive and tend to dominate the “weaker” sex and that is the reason in all human societies, males tend to hold positions of greater authority. However, these issues have remained highly controversial and have been much debated about.
Usually animals placed low on the evolutionary scale grow with little or no help from adults. Behavior of the “young” is more or less similar to the behavior of the “adults”. However, “higher” animals need to learn appropriate behavior. A human infant is most dependent of all. A child can not survive unaided for at least the first four to five years.
Socialization is the process whereby people learn the attitudes, actions and values appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. Ways in which people learn to conform to their society’s norms, values and roles. People learn to behave according to the norms of their culture. For example in the U.S., people grow up to view wealth as desirable and to blame the poor for their condition. Socialization occurs through human interaction, – family members, teachers, best friends and also the media and the Internet. Socialization helps us acquire a sense of personal identity and learn what people in the surrounding culture believe and how they expect one to behave. Socialization connects different generations to one another (Turnbull 1983). Birth of a child alters the lives of those who bring up the child. Thus learning and adjustment go on throughout the life cycle.
The process of socialization
Freud viewed socialization as a confrontation between the child and society. According to him there is constant struggle between the child driven by powerful, inborn sexual and aggressive urges and elders who try to impose on the child appropriate behavior. Other sociologists like Cooley and Herbert Mead view it as collaboration between the child and society. Freud’s theory has been largely criticized. Some have rejected the idea that infants have erotic wishes and that what happens during infancy and childhood has its impact throughout life and the feminists have criticized him for directing his theories too much toward male experience.
Mead’s ideas focus on symbolic interactionism. This is the notion that interactions between humans take place though symbols and interpretations of meanings. According to Mead, young children develop as social beings by imitating the action of those around them. In their play, small children often imitate the adults. Mead called this, “taking the role of another” – learning what it is like to be in the shoes of another. At this stage they acquire a sense of self.
Agents of Socialization
In all cultures, the family is the main source of socialization. Later in life, other agencies come into play. In modern societies, children spend most of their early years within a domestic unit consisting of mother, father and maybe siblings. In many cultures, uncles, aunts and grandparents do the caretaking of infants.
Another agency of socialization is peer group. This is a friendship group of children of a similar age (peer means equal). Peer relations are founded upon mutual consent and the relations are reasonable egalitarian. Schools are another agency of socialization. Alongside the formal curriculum there is also hidden curriculum. Children learn discipline. Mass media – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV have become important to our lives and hence important socializing agencies. Television violence leads to violence in some children but educational programs also teach children prosocial behaviors like sharing and getting along with others – Sesame Street, The Cosby show etc. Children are as susceptible to good TV messages as they are to bad ones. Work place involves learning to behave appropriately within a work environment. Socialization at work place represents the harsh reality and realization of an ambition.
Sesame Street Workshop for children
This is a TV workshop that brings certain messages to children and help bring about change in people’s attitudes. The messages help break stereotypes and bridge understanding between people. It teaches them to be respectful and tolerant of others.
CapeTown version of Sesame street is called Takalani Sesame. It has introduced an HIV positive character who is talented but tires very fast. This is done to ensure that kids do not demonize people with AIDS, to destigmatize AIDS victims and to make them socially acceptable. In an episode, when the muppet is asked what she wishes for, she says, “I wish that my mom was alive, that people were kind and that people were healthy”.
The Middle East version of Sesame Street is called Sesame Story. It emphasizes on peace education by connecting Palestinian and Israeli muppets. It narrates stories that humanize people around the world and enhances understanding between people.
“Unsocialized” children (feral or “untamed” children)
What would children be like if they were raised in the absence of adult humans. The story of “the wild boy of Aveyron” goes as follows – In early 1800, a strange creature emerged from the woods in southern France. He walked erect, but looked more animal than human. He spoke only strange sounding shrills. He had no sense of hygiene and relieved himself wherever he chose. He wore no clothes. He was brought to a police station and then taken to an orphanage. He refused to wear clothes, tore them off as soon as they were put on him and no parents came to claim him. After a thorough medical examination, no major physical abnormalities were found. Observation revealed that the boy was not completely without intelligence. Later he was toilet-trained and taught to wear clothes. He learned some human speech but made little progress and died around the age of 40 years.
In another case, a Californian girl named Genie, born with a defective hip was kept locked by her psychotic father for twelve years. Her mother who was blind and highly dependent was also locked up in isolation. The only contact they had with outside world was through a teenage son who went to school and did grocery shopping. Genie was not toilet trained. She had never heard anyone talk, had no toys and was kept tied up by her father who also beat her frequently. When the girl was around 12 years of age, her mother escaped with her and placed her in a rehabilitation center. Here she was toilet-trained, she learned to eat, talk and walk etc. Her mastery of the language never progressed beyond that of a 3 – 4 year old. She was a case of a child who had been deprived of social learning. She was alive but not a social being.
In both the cases of “feral” children, (raised without adults, and in isolation) by the time they came into contact with humans, children had grown beyond the age of learning language and other behaviors. This goes to show how limited our faculties would be in the absence of an extended period of early socialization. Even the most basic human traits depend upon socialization.
Need for love
All studies point to the undeniable need for nuturance in early childhood. Extreme isolation is related to profound retardation in acquisition of social and language skills.
Cross-cultural studies are also a good indication of the impact of socialization on human behavior. Margaret Mead (1935) conducted a classic study to find out whether women are nurturing by “nature” and men aggressive by “nature”? Her study in New Guinea showed that males proved as mild–mannered and nurturing as the females. Little boys treated infant girls like dolls. Men could not stand to hear a baby cry. Members of both sexes behaved in ways that we might call “feminine”. In another tribe she found that women were as hot-tempered, combative and uncaring as men were. Her work indicated that human behavior is largely learned.
Many adults and even adolescents experience the need to correct certain patterns of prior social learning that they and others find detrimental. Resocialization is a process whereby individuals undergo intense and deliberate socialization designed to change major beliefs and behaviors. Often aimed at changing behaviors like drinking, drug abuse, overeating etc.
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Back to blogFeb 25, 2011
Filed under: Example Papers — Tags: example essay on socialization, free essay on socialization, research paper on socialization, socialization essay sample, sociology essay, term paper on socialization — Joan Young @ 6:25 am
- Identify five agents of socialization.
- Describe positive and negative aspects of the socialization these agents produce.
Several institutional and other sources of socialization exist and are called agents of socialization. The first of these, the family, is certainly the most important agent of socialization for infants and young children.
Should parents get the credit when their children turn out to be good kids and even go on to accomplish great things in life? Should they get the blame if their children turn out to be bad? No parent deserves all the credit or blame for their children’s successes and failures in life, but the evidence indicates that our parents do affect us profoundly. In many ways, we even end up resembling our parents in more than just appearance.
Sociology Making a Difference
Understanding Racial Socialization
In a society that is still racially prejudiced, African American parents continue to find it necessary to teach their children about African American culture and to prepare them for the bias and discrimination they can expect to encounter. Scholars in sociology and other disciplines have studied this process of racial socialization. One of their most interesting findings is that African American parents differ in the degree of racial socialization they practice: some parents emphasize African American identity and racial prejudice to a considerable degree, while other parents mention these topics to their children only minimally. The reasons for these differences have remained unclear.
Sociologist Jason E. Shelton (2008) analyzed data from a national random sample of African Americans to determine these reasons, in what he called “one of the most comprehensive analyses to date of racial socialization strategies among African Americans” (p. 237). Among other questions, respondents were asked whether “in raising your children, have you done or told them things to help them know what it means to be Black.” They were also asked whether “there are any other things you’ve done or told your children to help them know how to get along with White people.”
In his major results, Shelton found that respondents were more likely to practice racial socialization if they were older, female, and living outside the South; if they perceived that racial discrimination was a growing problem and were members of civil rights or other organization aimed at helping African Americans; and if they had higher incomes.
These results led Shelton to conclude that “African Americans are not a culturally monolithic group,” as they differ in “the parental lessons they impart to their children about race relations” (2008, p. 253). Further, the parents who do practice racial socialization “do so in order to demystify and empower their offspring to seize opportunities in the larger society” (p. 253).
Shelton’s study helps us to understand the factors accounting for differences in racial socialization by African American parents, and it also helps us understand that the parents who do attempt to make their children aware of U.S. race relations are merely trying, as most parents do, to help their children get ahead in life. By increasing our understanding of these matters, Shelton’s research has helped make a difference.
The reason we turn out much like our parents, for better or worse, is that our families are such an important part of our socialization process. When we are born, our primary caregivers are almost always one or both of our parents. For several years we have more contact with them than with any other adults. Because this contact occurs in our most formative years, our parents’ interaction with us and the messages they teach us can have a profound impact throughout our lives, as indicated by the stories of Sarah Patton Boyle and Lillian Smith presented earlier.
The ways in which our parents socialize us depend on many factors, two of the most important of which are our parents’ social class and our own biological sex. Melvin Kohn (1965, 1977) found that working-class and middle-class parents tend to socialize their children very differently. Kohn reasoned that working-class parents tend to hold factory and other jobs in which they have little autonomy and instead are told what to do and how to do it. In such jobs, obedience is an important value, lest the workers be punished for not doing their jobs correctly. Working-class parents, Kohn thought, should thus emphasize obedience and respect for authority as they raise their children, and they should favor spanking as a primary way of disciplining their kids when they disobey. In contrast, middle-class parents tend to hold white-collar jobs where autonomy and independent judgment are valued and workers get ahead by being creative. These parents should emphasize independence as they raise their children and should be less likely than working-class parents to spank their kids when they disobey.
If parents’ social class influences how they raise their children, it is also true that the sex of their children affects how they are socialized by their parents. Many studies find that parents raise their daughters and sons quite differently as they interact with them from birth. We will explore this further in Chapter 11 “Gender and Gender Inequality”, but suffice it to say here that parents help their girls learn how to act and think “like girls,” and they help their boys learn how to act and think “like boys.” That is, they help their daughters and sons learn their gender (Wood, 2009). For example, they are gentler with their daughters and rougher with their sons. They give their girls dolls to play with, and their boys guns. Girls may be made of “sugar and spice and everything nice” and boys something quite different, but their parents help them greatly, for better or worse, turn out that way. To the extent this is true, our gender stems much more from socialization than from biological differences between the sexes, or so most sociologists probably assume. To return to a question posed earlier, if Gilligan is right that boys and girls reach moral judgments differently, socialization matters more than biology for how they reach these judgments.
As the “Learning From Other Societies” box illustrates, various cultures socialize their children differently. We can also examine cross-cultural variation in socialization with data from the World Values Survey, which was administered to almost six dozen nations. Figure 4.1 “Percentage Believing That Obedience Is Especially Important for a Child to Learn” shows the percentage of people in several countries who think it is “especially important for children to learn obedience at home.” Here we see some striking differences in the value placed on obedience, with the United States falling somewhat in between the nations in the figure.
Learning From Other Societies
Children and Socialization in Japan
This chapter ends with the observation that American children need to be socialized with certain values in order for our society to be able to address many of the social issues, including hate crimes and violence against women, facing it. As we consider the socialization of American children, the experience of Japan offers a valuable lesson.
Recall from Chapter 2 “Eye on Society: Doing Sociological Research” that Japan’s culture emphasizes harmony, cooperation, and respect for authority. Socialization in Japan is highly oriented toward the teaching of the values just listed, with much of it stressing the importance of belonging to a group and dependence, instead of individual autonomy and independence. This is especially true in Japanese schools, which, as two sociologists write, “stress the similarity of all children, and the importance of the group” (Schneider & Silverman, 2010, p. 24). Let’s see how this happens (Hendry, 1987; Schwalb & Schwalb, 1996).
From the time they begin school, Japanese children learn to value their membership in their homeroom, or kumi, and they spend several years in the same kumi. Each kumi treats its classroom as a “home away from home,” as the children arrange the classroom furniture, bring in plants and other things from their own homes, and clean the classroom every day. At recess one kumi will play against another. In an interesting difference from standard practice in the United States, a kumi in junior high school will stay in its classroom while the teachers for, say, math and social science move from one classroom to another. In the United States, of course, the opposite is true: teachers stay in their classrooms, and students move from one room to another.
Other practices in Japanese schools further the learning of Japanese values. Young schoolchildren wear the same uniforms. Japanese teachers use constant drills to teach them how to bow, and they have the children repeatedly stand up and sit down as a group. These practices help students learn respect for authority and help enhance the sense of group belonging that the kumi represents. Whereas teachers in the United States routinely call on individual students to answer a question, Japanese teachers rarely do this. Rather than competing with each other for a good grade, Japanese schoolchildren are evaluated according to the performance of the kumi as a whole. Because decision making within the kumi is done by consensus, the children learn the need to compromise and to respect each other’s feelings.
Because the members of a kumi spend so much time together for so many years, they develop extremely close friendships and think of themselves more as members of the kumi than as individuals. They become very loyal to the kumi and put its interests above their own individual interests. In these and other ways, socialization in Japanese schools helps the children and adolescents there learn the Japanese values of harmony, group loyalty, and respect for authority. If American children learned these values to a greater degree, it would be easier to address violence and other issues facing the United States.
Figure 4.1 Percentage Believing That Obedience Is Especially Important for a Child to Learn
Source: Data from World Values Survey, 2002.
The family is perhaps the most important agent of socialization for children. Parents’ values and behavior patterns profoundly influence those of their daughters and sons.
Randen Pederson – Family – CC BY 2.0.
Schools socialize children in several ways. First, students learn a formal curriculum, informally called the “three Rs”: reading, writing, and arithmetic. This phase of their socialization is necessary for them to become productive members of their society. Second, because students interact every day at school with their peers, they ideally strengthen their social interaction skills. Third, they interact with authority figures, their teachers, who are not their parents. For children who have not had any preschooling, their teachers are often the first authority figures they have had other than their parents. The learning they gain in relating to these authority figures is yet another important component of their socialization.
Functional theorists cite all these aspects of school socialization, but conflict theorists instead emphasize that schools in the United States also impart a hidden curriculum by socializing children to accept the cultural values of the society in which the schools are found. To be more specific, children learn primarily positive things about the country’s past and present; they learn the importance of being neat, patient, and obedient; and they learn to compete for good grades and other rewards. In this manner, they learn to love America and not to recognize its faults, and they learn traits that prepare them for jobs and careers that will bolster the capitalist economy. Children are also socialized to believe that failure, such as earning poor grades, stems from not studying hard enough and, more generally, from not trying hard enough (Booher-Jennings, 2008; Bowles & Gintis, 1976). This process reinforces the blaming-the-victim ideology discussed in Chapter 1 “Sociology and the Sociological Perspective”. Schools are also a significant source of gender socialization, as even in this modern day, teachers and curricula send out various messages that reinforce the qualities traditionally ascribed to females and males, and students engage in recess and other extracurricular activities that do the same thing (Booher-Jennings, 2008; Thorne, 1993).
Schools socialize children by teaching them their formal curricula but also a hidden curriculum that imparts the cultural values of the society in which the schools are found. One of these values is the need to respect authority, as evidenced by these children standing in line.
When you were a 16-year-old, how many times did you complain to your parent(s), “All of my friends are [doing so and so]. Why can’t I? It isn’t fair!” As this all-too-common example indicates, our friends play a very important role in our lives. This is especially true during adolescence, when peers influence our tastes in music, clothes, and so many other aspects of our lives, as the now-common image of the teenager always on a cell phone reminds us. But friends are important during other parts of the life course as well. We rely on them for fun, for emotional comfort and support, and for companionship. That is the upside of friendships.
The downside of friendships is called peer pressure, with which you are undoubtedly familiar. Suppose it is Friday night, and you are studying for a big exam on Monday. Your friends come by and ask you to go with them to get a pizza and a drink. You would probably agree to go with them, partly because you really dislike studying on a Friday night, but also because there is at least some subtle pressure on you to do so. As this example indicates, our friends can influence us in many ways. During adolescence, their interests can affect our own interests in film, music, and other aspects of popular culture. More ominously, adolescent peer influences have been implicated in underage drinking, drug use, delinquency, and hate crimes, such as the killing of Charlie Howard, recounted at the beginning of this chapter (Agnew, 2007) (see Chapter 5 “Social Structure and Social Interaction”).
After we reach our 20s and 30s, our peers become less important in our lives, especially if we get married. Yet even then our peers do not lose all their importance, as married couples with young children still manage to get out with friends now and then. Scholars have also begun to emphasize the importance of friendships with coworkers for emotional and practical support and for our continuing socialization (Elsesser & Peplau, 2006; Marks, 1994).
Our peers also help socialize us and may even induce us to violate social norms.
The Mass Media
The mass media are another agent of socialization. Television shows, movies, popular music, magazines, Web sites, and other aspects of the mass media influence our political views; our tastes in popular culture; our views of women, people of color, and gays; and many other beliefs and practices.
In an ongoing controversy, the mass media are often blamed for youth violence and many other of our society’s ills. The average child sees thousands of acts of violence on television and in the movies before reaching young adulthood. Rap lyrics often seemingly extol very ugly violence, including violence against women. Commercials can greatly influence our choice of soda, shoes, and countless other products. The mass media also reinforce racial and gender stereotypes, including the belief that women are sex objects and suitable targets of male violence. In the General Social Survey (GSS), about 28% of respondents said that they watch four or more hours of television every day, while another 46% watch two to three hours daily (see Figure 4.2 “Average Number of Hours of Television Watched Daily”). The mass media certainly are an important source of socialization unimaginable a half-century ago.
Figure 4.2 Average Number of Hours of Television Watched Daily
Source: Data from General Social Survey, 2008.
As the mass media socialize children, adolescents, and even adults, a key question is the extent to which media violence causes violence in our society (Surette, 2011). Studies consistently uncover a strong correlation between watching violent television shows and movies and committing violence. However, this does not necessarily mean that watching the violence actually causes violent behavior: perhaps people watch violence because they are already interested in it and perhaps even committing it. Scholars continue to debate the effect of media violence on youth violence. In a free society, this question is especially important, as the belief in this effect has prompted calls for monitoring the media and the banning of certain acts of violence. Civil libertarians argue that such calls smack of censorship that violates the First Amendment to the Constitution, whole others argue that they fall within the First Amendment and would make for a safer society. Certainly the concern and debate over mass media violence will continue for years to come.
One final agent of socialization is religion, discussed further in Chapter 12 “Aging and the Elderly”. Although religion is arguably less important in people’s lives now than it was a few generations ago, it still continues to exert considerable influence on our beliefs, values, and behaviors.
Here we should distinguish between religious preference (e.g., Protestant, Catholic, or Jewish) and religiosity (e.g., how often people pray or attend religious services). Both these aspects of religion can affect your values and beliefs on religious and nonreligious issues alike, but their particular effects vary from issue to issue. To illustrate this, consider the emotionally charged issue of abortion. People hold very strong views on abortion, and many of their views stem from their religious beliefs. Yet which aspect of religion matters the most, religious preference or religiosity? General Social Survey data help us answer this question (Figure 4.3 “Religious Preference, Religiosity, and Belief That Abortion Should Be Legal for Any Reason”). It turns out that religious preference, if we limit it for the sake of this discussion to Catholics versus Protestants, does not matter at all: Catholics and Protestants in the GSS exhibit roughly equal beliefs on the abortion issue, as about one-third of each group thinks abortion should be allowed for any reason. (The slight difference shown in the table is not statistically significant.) However, religiosity matters a lot: GSS respondents who pray daily are only about half as likely as those who rarely or never pray to think abortion should be allowed.
Figure 4.3 Religious Preference, Religiosity, and Belief That Abortion Should Be Legal for Any Reason
Source: Data from General Social Survey, 2008.
- The ways in which parents socialize children depend in part on the parents’ social class and on their child’s biological sex.
- Schools socialize children by teaching them both the formal curriculum and a hidden curriculum.
- Peers are an important source of emotional support and companionship, but peer pressure can induce individuals to behave in ways they might ordinarily regard as wrong.
- The mass media are another important agent of socialization, and scholars debate the effect the media have on violence in society.
- In considering the effects of religion on socialization, we need to distinguish between religious preference and religiosity.
For Your Review
- Describe one important value or attitude you have that is the result of socialization by your parent(s).
- Do you agree that there is a hidden curriculum in secondary schools? Explain your answer.
- Briefly describe one example of how peers influenced you or someone you know in a way that you now regard as negative.
Agnew, R. (2007). Pressured into crime: An overview of general strain theory. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Booher-Jennings, J. (2008). Learning to label: Socialisation, gender, and the hidden curriculum of high-stakes testing. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 29, 149–160.
Bowles, S., & Gintis, H. (1976). Schooling in capitalist America: Educational reforms and the contradictions of economic life. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Elsesser, K., & Peplau, L. A. (2006). The glass partition: Obstacles to cross-sex friendships at work. Human Relations, 59, 1077–1100.
Hendry, J. (1987). Understanding Japanese society. London, England: Croom Helm.
Kohn, M. (1977). Class and conformity. Homewood, IL: Dorsey.
Kohn, M. (1965). Social class and parent-child relationships: An interpretation. American Journal of Sociology, 68, 471–480.
Marks, S. R. (1994). Intimacy in the public realm: The case of co-workers. Social Forces, 72, 843–858.
Schneider, L., & Silverman, A. (2010). Global sociology: Introducing five contemporary societies (5th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Schwalb, D. W., & Schwalb, B. J. (Eds.). (1996). Japanese childrearing: Two generations of scholarship. New York, NY: Guilford Press.
Shelton, J. E. (2008). The investment in blackness hypothesis: Toward greater understanding of who teaches what during racial socialization. Du Bois Review: Social Science Research on Race, 5(2), 235–257.
Surette, R. (2011). Media, crime, and criminal justice: Images, realities, and policies (4th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Thorne, B. (1993). Gender play: Girls and boys in school. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.
Wood, J. T. (2009). Gendered lives: Communication, gender, and culture. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
This is a derivative of Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World by a publisher who has requested that they and the original author not receive attribution, which was originally released and is used under CC BY-NC-SA. This work, unless otherwise expressly stated, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.