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Lecture 8. Socialization of the personality

1.The concept of socialization

2.Theories of personality’s development.

3.The main agents of socialization;


The process by which people learn the culture and social skills of their society and of their particular social location. Socialization takes place throughout life, though many theories focus on infants and children. socialization is the process through which people are taught to be proficient members of a society. It describes the ways that people come to understand societal norms and expectations, to accept society’s beliefs, and to be aware of societal values. Socialization is not the same as socializing (interacting with others, like family, friends, and coworkers); to be precise, it is a sociological process that occurs through socializing. Socialization is a fundamental sociological concept, comprising a number of elements. While not every sociologist will agree which elements are the most important, or even how to define some of the elements of socialization, the elements outlined below should help clarify what is meant by socialization.

Goals of Socialization. Arnett, in presenting a new theoretical understanding of socialization, outlined what he believes to be the three goals of socialization:

  1. impulse control and the development of a conscience
  2. role preparation and performance, including occupational roles, gender roles, and roles in institutions such as marriage and parenthood
  3. the cultivation of sources of meaning, or what is important, valued, and to be lived for

In short, socialization is the process that prepares humans to function in social life. It should be re-iterated here that socialization is culturally relative - people in different cultures are socialized differently. This distinction does not and should not inherently force an evaluative judgement. Socialization, because it is the adoption of culture, is going to be different in every culture. Socialization, as both process or an outcome, is not better or worse in any particular culture.

It should also be noted that, while socialization is a key sociological process in the development of individuals who can function in human society, not every aspect of human behavior is learned. For instance, there is evidence that most children have innate empathy for individuals who are wilfully injured and consider it wrong. Thus, some aspects of human behavior that one might believe are learned, like empathy and morals, may, in fact, be biologically determined. To what extent human behavior is biologically determined vs. learned is still an open question in the study of human behavior.

Primary and Secondary Socialization. Socialization is a life process, but is generally divided into two parts: 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.

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 family of orientation, the school, 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.

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, friends, schools, siblings, 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.

Thus, Socialization is the process whereby people learn the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate for members of a particular culture. This lecture examined the role of socialization in human development; the way in which people develop perceptions, feelings, and beliefs about themselves; the lifelong nature of the socialization process; and the important agents of socialization.

  1. Socialization affects the overall cultural practices of a society; it also shapes the images that we hold of ourselves.
  2. Heredity and environmental factors interact in influencing the socialization process. Sociobiology is the systematic study of the biological bases of social behavior.
  3. In the early 1900s, Charles Horton Cooley advanced the belief that we learn who we are by interacting with others, a phenomenon he calls the looking-glass self.
  4. George Herbert Mead, best known for his theory of the self, proposed that as people mature, their selves begin to reflect their concern about reactions from others--both generalized others and significant others.
  5. Erving Goffman has shown that in many of our daily activities we try to convey distinct impressions of who we are, a process called impression management.
  6. Socialization proceeds throughout the life course. Some societies mark stages of development with formal rites of passage. In the culture of the United States, significant events such as marriage and parenthood serve to change a person's status.
  7. As the primary agents of socialization, parents play a critical role in guiding children into those gender roles deemed appropriate in a society.
  8. Like the family, schools in the United States have an explicit mandate to socialize people--and especially children--into the norms and values of our culture.
  9. Peer groups and the mass media, especially television, are important agents of socialization for adolescents.
  10. Socialization in the workplace begins with parttime employment while in school and continues when we work full-time and change jobs throughout our lifetime.
  11. The state shapes the socialization process by regulating the life course and by influencing our views of appropriate behavior at particular ages.
  12. As more and more mothers of young children have entered the labor market, the demand for child care has increased dramatically, posing policy questions for many nations around the world.

2. One of the pioneering contributors to sociological perspectives on self-development was Charles Cooley (1864–1929). As we saw in the last chapter, he asserted that people’s self understanding is constructed, in part, by their perception of how others view them—a process termed “the looking glass self” (Cooley 1902). The self or “self idea” is thoroughly social. It is based on how we imagine we appear to others. This projection defines how we feel about ourselves and who we feel ourselves to be. The development of a self therefore involves three elements in Cooley’s analysis: “the imagination of our appearance to the other person; the imagination of his judgment of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification.”

Later, George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) advanced a more detailed sociological approach to the self. He agreed that the self, as a person’s distinct identity, is only developed through social interaction. He further noted that the crucial component of the self is its capacity for self reflection, its capacity to be “an object to itself” (Mead 1934). On this basis, he broke the self down into two components or “phases,” the “I” and the “me.” The “me” represents the part of the self in which one recognizes the “organized sets of attitudes” of others toward the self. It is who we are in other’s eyes: our roles, our “personalities,” our public personas. The “I,” on the other hand, represents the part of the self that acts on its own initiative or responds to the organized attitudes of others. It is the novel, spontaneous, unpredictable part of the self: the part of the self that embodies the possibility of change or undetermined action. The self is always caught up in a social process in which one flips back and forth between two distinguishable phases, the I and the me, as one mediates between one’s own individual actions and individual responses to various social situations and the attitudes of the community.

This flipping back and forth is the condition of our being able to be social. It is not an ability that we are born with (Mead 1934). The case of Danielle, for example, illustrates what happens when social interaction is absent from early experience: she had no ability to see herself as others would see her. From Mead’s point of view, she had no “self.” Without others, or without society, the self cannot exist: “[I]t is impossible to conceive of a self arising outside of social experience” (Mead 1934).

How do we get from being newborns to being humans with “selves?” Mead developed a specifically sociological theory of the path of development that all people go through, which he divided into stages of increasing capacity for role play: the fourstages of child socialization. During thepreparatory stage, children are only capable of imitation: they have no ability to imagine how others see things. They copy the actions of people with whom they regularly interact, such as their mothers and fathers. A child’s baby talk is a reflection of its inability to make an object of itself through which it can approach itself. This is followed by the play stage, during which children begin to imitate and take on roles that another person might have. Thus, children might try on a parent’s point of view by acting out “grownup” behaviour, like playing “dress up” and acting out the mom role, or talking on a toy telephone the way they see their father do. However, they are still not able to take on roles in a consistent and coherent manner. Role play is very fluid and transitory, and children flip in and out of roles easily.

During the game stage, children learn to consider several specific roles at the same time and how those roles interact with each other. They learn to understand interactions involving different people with a variety of purposes. They understand that role play in each situation involves following a consistent set of rules and expectations. For example, a child at this stage is likely to be aware of the different responsibilities of people in a restaurant who together make for a smooth dining experience (someone seats you, another takes your order, someone else cooks the food, while yet another person clears away dirty dishes).

Mead uses the example of a baseball game. At one point in the life of children they are simply unable to play an organized game like baseball. They do not “get it” that when they hit the ball they need to run, or that after their turn someone else gets a turn to bat. In order for baseball to work, the players not only have to know what the rules of the game are, and what their specific role in the game is (batter, catcher, first base, etc.), but simultaneously the role of every other player on the field. The players have to be able to anticipate the actions of others and adjust or orient their behaviour accordingly.

Finally, children develop, understand, and learn the idea of the generalized other, the common behavioural expectations of general society. By this stage of development, an individual is able to internalize how he or she is viewed, not simply from the perspective of specific others, but from the perspective of the generalized other or “organized community.” Being able to guide one’s actions according to the attitudes of the generalized other provides the basis of having a “self” in the sociological sense. This capacity defines the conditions of thinking, of language, and of society itself as the organization of complex cooperative processes and activities.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 6850

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