Saturday, January 28, 2012


Socialization – The Process

Socialization is the process of social interaction through which people acquire personality and learn the way of life of their society. Socialization is a life long process.

The Results of Socialization

Language Acquisition

One of the results of socialization that anyone can see in virtually in any society is that people learn to use the language of their group.

Sense of Self and Personality

Freud hypothesized an unconscious part of self which has instinctual impulses, a conscious part of self that compares the demands of the unconscious self with the demands of the society, and part of self called superego which understands  and tries to uphold the norms of the society.


Personality refers to the fairly stable patterns of thought, feeling, and action that are typical of an individual (Robertson, 1977). Personality  includes the cognitive component, emotional component, and behavioral component.  Knowledge consisting of belief and thoughts, memory, perception and other intellectual capacities are the part of the  cognitive component. Love, hate, envy. sympathy, anger, pride and other feelings form the emotional component.  Skills, competences and other abilities are behavioral components. All these components are developed in person in the socialization process.

Debate about “Nature and Nurture”

Now it is agreed the personality is not the product of either heredity or learning alone but rather of a complex interaction between the two. Biology may set the broad outlines and limits to potential of a person, but the use to which the potential is put is determined by the environment in which a person lives. In the process of socialization biology and culture meet and blend.

Result of Lack of Socialization

If the children are deprived socialization by an adult, they do not develop social skills; language etc. and many of them do not survive long. Even in monkeys similar results were observed.

Understanding Theories of Learning

Socialization is a process of learning the ways of society. Hence understanding learning process of humans is a part of understanding socialization process.

Important learning theories are behaviorist approach and developmental approach. Behaviorist approach states that behavior which is rewarded is repeated and behavior which is punished is not exhibited. Hence learning occurs due to rewards. Social learning theory of Bandura argues that learning does not occur due to rewards only. A good deal of learning occurs due to imitation. This type of learning occurs in more people, especially if the person exhibiting this behavior is rewarded. Hence people often learn from their social environments even in the absence of direct rewards to them.

Development approach places greater emphasis on individual’s internal interpretation of situations rather than external factors – rewards and punishments.  The behavioralists tend to see people as essentially passive, and they assume that behavioral of a person is the output of environmental conditioning. The proponents of development approach acknowledge that a good deal of learning occurs because of external stimulus, expected behavior and resulting reward repetitions, but insist that people are essentially active, and not passive in this learning process. People judge, interpret, define and personally create their behavior. The development approach is more humanistic as it places greater emphasis on human free will and choice. Hence, this approach is winning increasing acceptance among social scientists.

The Emergence of Self

Self of person is the conscious experience of a distinct, personal identity that is separate from all other people and things. How does this self emerge in childhood and how is it continually modified throughout the life cycle of an individual? This question is of greater interest to sociologists and psychologists. In sociology this issue is of interest in the context of socialization.
Thee major theories of self emergence and development are proposed by Sigmund Freud, Charles Horton Cooley, and George Herbert Mead. Each of the theories emphasizes that concepts of self are learned through social interaction with others.

Freud’s Theory

Freud argued that people are born with basic drives, such as those for sex and aggression. Social order would be impossible unless these drives are controlled and hence society imposes its will on the individual suppressing and channeling the drives into socially acceptable outlets. There is a conflict in this process and this conflict is explained using concepts of id, ego and superego.

Freud proposed that personality of a person can divided into three interacting parts. The id is the reservoir of drives present in the individual at birth and throughout life. It is entirely unconscious and demands continual, instantaneous satisfaction.  But as the child is growing, the child learns about the demands of society form other people, particularly from parents and internalizes them into his personality in the form of super ego. The superego is thus an internal version of the moral authority of the society, and it works through feelings of shame and pride to influence the decisions of the person. Ego is another part of the personality that continually mediates between id and superego to decide on actions to be taken.

The ego or conscious self (id is unconscious self) has two tasks. The first is to counterbalance the demands of id with the demands of superego.  Demand for instantaneous self gratification needs to be balanced with demands for socially acceptable behavior by superego. The second task is to mediate between the personality as a whole and the social environment. If the conscious self achieves a harmonious balance within the personality, and between the entire personality and society, the individual is well adjusted, if not; an impaired personality is the outcome. According to  Freud, most of the personality development takes place in early child hood.

Cooley’s Theory

The central concept in Cooley’s theory is the looking-glass self. Society acts as a looking glass for every individual. People observe reactions of other to their actions in this looking glass. If the image they see is favorable, the self concept is enhanced and behavior is likely to be repeated. If the image they see to an action is unfavorable, self concept is diminished and the related behavior is likely to change.

Like Freud, Cooley also advocates that the self-concepts formed in childhood are more stable and lasting than those formed later in life. However, he has emphasized the the process of self-evaluation is a continuous process throughout the life and personality evolves. In Colley's theory, there is no conflict between individuals and society on a continuous basis. There is more cooperation and interaction.

Mead’s Theory

Mead proposed that people anticipate what others expect by role taking – pretending to take or actually taking the roles of other people, so that one can see oneself from their perspective. There is a thinking or cognitive process involved in self development. Children internalize the expecations of particular persons or specific individuals. But adults learn to anticipate the reactions and expecations of the society in general and control their behavior accordingly.
According to Mead, socialization process is never perfect or complete. He distinguished between ‘I” (the unsocialized self) and “me" (the socialized self that is conscious of social norms, expectations, and the individual’s social responsibility). According to Mead the “I” is never completely under the control of “me”. The socialized self is usually dominant, but we all have the capacity to break social rules and violate the expectations of others.

Socialization Through The Course of Life

Erik Erikson identified eight stages in human life where society has a role to play in the development of people.

These stages are:

1. Infancy
2. Early childhood
3. 4 to 5 years
4. School age (6 to 12 years)
5. Adolescence
6. Young adulthood
7. Middle age
8. Old age

At each stage society can play a beneficial role or a negative role. Old age can be satisfying for a person who feels he has done his best and he is proud of what he has created. Otherwise he is a dissatisfied man full of despair.

Agencies of Socialization

Some of the important socialization agencies are family, school, peer group and mass media.

The Family

Family is where children establish their first close contacts; learn language and being internalize cultural norms and values. While a great deal of socialization that takes in the family is conscious, a good amount unintended socialization also takes place.

The School

The school is an agency formally charged by the society with talks of socializing the children in particular skills and values. The curricular activities as well as extracurricular activities like sports and games contribute to socialization. Children learn from the school that they must be neat and punctual. They learn to sit still, keep quiet and focus on their assigned work. They learn to respect authority and obey commands the persons who have social authority over them. The involvement of the child in the school activities lessens the dependence on the family and creates new links to the wider society beyond.

The Peer Group

As children grow older, they spend more and more time in the company of their peers. In peer groups, most socialization takes place without any deliberate design based on temporary interests and concerns.

The Mass Media

There is a TV set in most of the American homes and in many other countries also. The average child between the ages of three and sixteen spends more time in front of the TV set than in School. The social norms and values reflected in the media may be adopted by the people who might not otherwise be exposed to them.

The other agencies of socialization are religious establishments, children organizations like scouts, youth organizations, employment providing organizations, voluntary associations, and political parties etc. From socialization agencies or socialization processes, all will not learn what they are supposed to learn. The socialization process may fail in certain respects, and people may come to behave in ways that were never anticipated or intended. Thus social deviance is often observed in various societies. 


Robertson, Ian (1977), Sociology, Worth Publishers, Inc., New York.
Persell, Caroline Hodges (1984), Understanding Society: An Introduction to Sociology, Harper & Row, Publishers, New York, New York

Sociology - Related Knols



A Debate: Socialization: Homeschooling vs. Schools
May 2, 2007
  Approximately 4 million children currently being homeschooled in the US.
Dr. Thomas Smedley believes that homeschoolers have superior socialization skills, and he did research to verify this theory. He conducted a study in which he administered the Vineyard Adaptive Behavior Scales test to identify mature and well-adapted behaviors in children. Home learners ranked in the 84th percentile, compared to publicly schooled students, who were drastically lower in the 23rd.
NHERI (National Home Education Research Institute) reports that home educated students participate in approximately five different social activities outside the home on a regular basis. Researcher Dr. Linda Montgomery found that 78 percent of high school home learners were employed with paying jobs.
Research presented at the National Christian Home Educators Leadership Conference divulged that homeschool graduates far exceeded their public and private school counterparts in college by ranking the highest in 42 of 63 indicators of collegiate success. They were also ranked as being superior in four out of five achievement categories, including socialization and  they were assessed as being the most charismatic and influential.
School teachers and administrators contest these ideas and argue that proper socialization does not take place in home education.


Originally posted in Knol
Knol not available for public access after 30 April 2012

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