Essay on Socialization!
Socialization is the process through which the individual learns to become an accepted member of the society. At birth the neonate is neither social nor unsocial. Because of this helplessness at birth he has to depend on other social beings for his care and welfare. As he grows in a social environment and in a social context, he develops various types of behaviour which are called social and gradually grows to become a social animal.
The interaction of the baby with his environment and particularly mother helps him in the above process. Thus the learning to adopt to the social norms, values and standards is called socialization.
The human organism is a byproduct of the society and social force. The manner in which the human child learns to become an accepted member of the society is called the socialization process. Anyone who does not accept or follow the dos and donots, rules and regulations, values and norms of the society is not called a socialised individual.
The socialization of the child takes place through action and reaction between the child and other individual members of the society. The child begins interaction with his mother first, then with his father and subsequently with other members of the family.
The process of socialization is quite complex. It involves the multiplicity of processes as it involves the multiplicity of social norms. It involves the various roles which the individual has to play in order to fulfil the expectations of the society. Not only the parental influence, and the influence of other adults but also the neighbourhood is of tremendous value in the socialization of the child.
Through the process of socialization the various values, codes, norms and mores of the society become a part of his personality, part of his personal values. When he accepts these willingly rather than as a matter of compulsion he is said to be socialized. The child’s behaviour is modified and remodified to conform to the expectations held by the members of the groups of which he is a member.
During the first three four years and before attending school the child is trained to meet the expectations of family members.
They teach him to follow the socially accepted behavioural patterns which are considered as good and reject unacceptable behavioural patterns which are considered as bad. But when he is admitted to a preschool or a nursery school or a primary school, he is also influenced by teachers and friends.
The child learns to adjust with a wider world of school teachers, class mates and play mates and a host of other persons. He learns the social norms, how to behave with the teachers and show respect to them, how to deal with the class mates. In this way as he grows and grows and reaches adulthood he comes across varied agents of socialization who mould his personality in the manner the society wants.
Not only the parental influence and the influence of the other adults also the neighbourhood is of tremendous value in the socialization of the child. Besides the effects of books, radio, TV and motion pictures are of tremendous value for the moral and social development of the child.
The child is socialized on the basis of his past and present experiences. Thus family, neighbourhood peers, playmates and classmates etc. mould the personality of the child according to the pattern of the society. Fundamentally socialization is possible through affiliation.
The early helplessness of the baby makes him dependent upon others. So he has to affiliate himself with others for his living. Love, comfort, respect, power, achievement and other secondary needs cannot be satisfied in isolation. Hence the child acquires many needs through social and affiliation learning which leads to socialization.
Major Features of the Process of Socialization:
The process of socialization is a continuous one. It continues from birth till death. Results of various experimental studies, observations of children in day-to-day life, interviews with parents, studies in different cultures taken together point out the major aspects of the process of socialization.
The dependency of the new born infant, the need for affiliation, the role of the reference group, the need for education and therefore admission to school, the effect of reward and punishment imposed by the parents, school and the society, delay in fulfilment of needs, desires and wishes, identification with the loved ones all have their respective roles in the socialization of the human infant.
The infant’s dependence upon the mother for food, care and nursing provides the essential condition for socialization of personality. But the help of reinforcement certain responses of the child are rewarded and certain other responses are not rewarded. Sometimes, the child is punished for not following the dos of the society. In this manner the dependent and helpless child is taught to be a member of the society.
The child also learns many values and traditions through imitation and incidental learning since parents do not always teach like a teacher. When a child sees that his mother is lying at the feet of God or Goddess he also does the same. When a child sees his mother showing her respect to a senior person by bowing her head she also learns to do the same.
Sears (1957) is of opinion that through dependence the process of identification develops. The desire to identify occurs when the child is given food and love and such reinforcements are periodically withdrawn so that the child will be rewarded by reproducing the mother’s behaviours.
The child also depends upon his parents and close family members for various informations about his surrounding and about the world at large. He also needs their help to clarify certain matters and to fulfil his curiosity. For this he has to obey them and follow what they say.
The need for affiliation also develops out of dependency. The desire to remain with others and be happy when one is in a group is an outcome of the helplessness of the child during early period. The desire to remain with others throughout one’s life has a direct link with the process of socialization.
Schachter (1959) found that isolation produces fear and affiliation reduces fear. Thus he concluded that persons with higher fear would affiliate more than those with low fears as through affiliation man tries to reduce his emotion of fear.
When a child grows up his socialization process is subject to the influence of outside agents of the society like the play group, teachers and peers. Now he becomes a member of several groups and clubs. Those groups which strongly influence the child are called the reference groups. The individual evaluates himself through the reference groups which serves as the standard for him.
New Comb (1943) while finding out the changes in the attitude of students that accompanied socialisation in a college observed the important role of reference group on socialisation. Sherif and Sherif (1964) also observe that like the family group, the reference groups influence the conduct of the individual.
The reference group serves as a norm, standard or model for the individual. The growing children and adolescents become a member of many groups and are influenced by the action, model ideal and values of such groups. A reference group serves as a standard for evaluation.
Out of the socialisation process the ‘self’ develops. The individual then learns to perceive himself and his self concept affects his social behaviour. A person perceives himself from three aspects i.e. from the cognitive, effective and behavioural components. His self concept becomes ultimately a source of motivation to him. The self concept develops out of the interaction of the individual with others.
When others say some one beautiful, sincere and intelligent, he develops a positive self concept and when people start saying negative things about one’s action and behaviour, he develops a negative self concept. A person who becomes regularly unsuccessful in examination perceives himself as academically poor. Thus the self concept develops through the process of social interaction and socialization.
When others say that he is an excellent boy he perceives himself as such and tries to repeat these characteristics in future which have brought him praise and reward. Those actions which bring him blame are given up and unlearned. A person who continuously become unsuccessful in an interview also develops negative self-image and inferiority complex.
The development of self therefore depends on continuous learning unlearning and releasing. Through the process of adjustment and readjustment the individual’s self is socialised.
Some have tried to compare the process of socialization with the procedures by which many human beings using raw materials construct automobiles. Many human beings interacting with the raw organism, the human infant, turn him to a socialized personality.
Nevertheless personality is not a mechanical by product of the society. Socialization is never a passive process and no personality is a mechanical by product of the society. A number of automobiles of similar type are produced using raw materials.
But no two human personalities are equal. Every personality is unique by itself. Every in the same family two brothers may have totally different personalities. One brother may have a very high social status while the other may be a delinquent and disgrace to the society.
Since no two personalities in the world are identically equal it would be erroneous to compare living human infants with the raw materials of automobiles which are dead materials.
When an infant undergoes the process of socialization he reacts in diverse ways. Sometimes he resists rules, regulations, traditions and customs of the society. At home, during training of feeding habits, there may be conflict between the child and the mother.
The child may resist to take certain types of good, to wear dresses of certain designs, he may like to go naked in summer, he may not like to follow certain traditions and customs which do not give him pleasure.
Sometimes a child may find it difficult to adjust with the demands and the needs of the society. He may find it difficult to control his emotions. If he is scolded by parents he is adviced to remain silent. He is not allowed to react. When he feels hungry he is not allowed to eat. He is allowed to eat only at a scheduled time and place.
Thus, the more rules and regulations he has to obey, the more disciplines, he has to follow, the more resistances are found. Since he has to meet a great deal of difficulty to conform to the expectations and norms of the groups he often resists conformity to social norms during infancy when it is mostly ‘id’.
But gradually when the ego develops, training of socialisation becomes stronger than the resistances and when he accepts the social values and norms as a matter of principle as his own values rather through compulsion, the conflict in the process of socialization is reduced and the person is said to be socialized.
The individual and society mutually respond to the process of socialization. The society tries to mould the individual through its rules, regulations, traditions and customs and the individual while trying to belong to the group, sometimes tries to modify the social standard as far as practicable.
A sense of belongingness helps one to feel secured and satisfied. Thus the process of socialisation helps one to develop a normal personality. One who is properly socialized, when he becomes a parent he undertakes the responsibility of socializing his own children and at this time, his attitude towards the prevalent social norms undergoes tremendous change.
With the change in the socio-cultural values and spirit of time, there is always a continuous change in the rules, regulations, standards, customs and traditions of the society. As a result, there is change in the socialisation of the human personality.
The socialization process is therefore never rigid but dynamic. It varies and changes from time to time and generation to generation. The parents, teachers and individuals have to adjust with the changing social customs and values and socialize their children accordingly.
They have to develop proper social attitudes and behaviours appropriate to his particular society. Otherwise there will be conflict due to generation gap. The child must behave in such a way which is approved by the group or society. Since the aim of socialization is to induce the individual to conform willingly to the ways of the society and the groups to which he belongs, parents and teachers should see that his personality is built up accordingly.
Otherwise in future there may be tremendous adjustment problems. Since socialization is a dynamic process a person who rigidly conforms to the rules and regulations of the society is not an ideal product of socialization.
A properly socialized person should be flexible and dynamic in approach to conform to the changing social standards of the society and culture. A person who is unable to adjust with this is therefore said to be unsocial or a social.
As previously indicated, the socialization practices change constantly. Social class has also an important role to play in this regard. Middle class mothers in comparison to working class mothers are more permissive towards the child’s expressed needs and wishes, are more equalitarian in their handling of the child and are less likely to use physical punishment.
Early learning experiences have a lasting impact on personality and socialization. In various studies of socialization process child psychologists have tried to investigate the effects of infant disciplines, child care programmes and post childhood discontinuities on adult personality. They have found that during the early years the parental influences on child is maximum and have powerful impact on socialization.
But during the later stage to reshape the unsatisfactory and socially inappropriate behaviours found in many adolescents, application of desocialization and resocialization processes are found essential.
Desocialization attempts to remove the previous attitudes and habits which are not conducive to proper socialization. Many had habits, antisocial and irresponsible, socially unacceptable behaviours can be reduced by this technique.
Resocialization on the other hand is a process by which the group induces a person to adopt one set of behaviour standards as a substitute for another. Sometimes after desocialization resocialization may be a necessary consequence. While removing the old values new values are to be substituted in their place.
When parents have a new baby, the first question they typically ask is whether they have a girl or a boy. Children’s gender assignment becomes a powerful social identity that shapes children’s lives. During early childhood, girls and boys spend much of their time in the home with their families and look to parents and older siblings for guidance. Parents provide children with their first lessons about gender. Possible ways that parents might influence children’s gender development include role modeling and encouraging different behaviours and activities in sons and daughters.1
One of the challenges for researchers studying parental socialization is to separate the influences of parents on children and the influences of children on parents.2 Fifty years ago, when researchers observed correlations between parenting practices and children’s behaviour the typical inference was that the parents were influencing the children. However, developmental psychologists now recognize that children also influence their parents’ behaviour. Thus, drawing conclusions about causal influences of parental socialization on children’s gender development must be made carefully.
Key Research Questions
When evaluating the influence of parents on children’s gender development, four questions are pertinent:
- Do parents tend to have gender-stereotypical expectations for their children?
- Do parents tend to model traditional gender-role behaviours to their children?
- Do parents tend to encourage gender-stereotyped behaviours and to discourage cross-gender-stereotyped behaviours in their children?
- Do gender-related variations in parents’ expectations and behaviour have causal influences on children’s gender development?
Parents’ gender-stereotypical expectations.
Gender-typed expectations may occur regarding personality traits (e.g., “boys are aggressive”), abilities (e.g., “girls are good at reading”), activities, and roles (e.g., “men are scientists”).3 As gender equality has increased in many many cultures during the last several decades, there has been a corresponding increase in adults’ endorsement of gender-egalitarian attitudes. There is now more variation among parents with some holding traditional expectations and some expressing egalitarian expectations for their daughters and sons.4,5 Also, some parents may support egalitarian views about some domains (e.g., occupations) but remain more traditional about other domains (e.g., family roles). Finally, parents (especially fathers) tend to be more rigid in their expectations for sons than daughters.6
Parents’ gender-role modeling.
One of the dramatic social changes in much of the industrialized world in the last 50 years has been in the entrance of women into the labor force. In contemporary industrialized societies, most women with children work outside of the home. Men’s average involvement in childcare and housework has also increased, although domestic responsibilities continue to be handled mostly by women in most dual-career families.6 Research finds that fathers’ childcare involvement is negatively related to children’s gender stereotyping. Through active involvement in childcare, fathers demonstrate that the adult male role may include nurturing as well as instrumental activities.7
The potential influence of parental gender-role modeling has also been implicated in studies of children raised by lesbian or gay parents.8 Compared to children raised in two-parent heterosexual families, children raised by same-gender parents tend be less likely than to endorse certain gender stereotypes. However, when same-gender parents divided labor with one parent as primary caregiver and the other parent as the primary breadwinner, their children were more likely to express stereotyped views about adult roles and occupations.8
Parents’ differential treatment of daughters and sons.
In many parts of the world, parents with limited financial resources have a strong preference for sons. As a result, priority for resource opportunities ranging from health care to education may be given to sons over daughters.9 This stark contrast in the differential treatment of sons and daughters is generally not seen in wealthier countries. Nonetheless, there are common ways that parents in these societies may socialize girls and boys differently.
According to one comprehensive review of studies conducted in western countries, the most consistent manner by which parents treat girls and boys differently is through the encouragement of gender-stereotyped activities.10 This includes the types of toys that parents might purchase or the kinds of activities that they promote. For example, parents are more likely to provide toy vehicles, action figures, and sports equipment for their sons; and they are more likely to give dolls, kitchen sets, and dress-up toys to their daughters. Once children begin to request particular toys (usually by around 3 years of age), it is unclear how much parents are shaping their children’s play activity preferences as opposed to acceding to their children’s stated preferences.11
There are also subtle ways that parents may reinforce gender stereotypes even when they are not overtly encouraging them. This is commonly seen in parents’ use of essentialist statements about gender. Examples would be “Girls like dolls” or “Boys like football.” In these instances, the parent is expressing what is known as a descriptive stereotype (i.e., describing general patterns or “essences” about each gender) rather than prescriptive stereotype (i.e., stating what should occur). Research suggests that even middle-class mothers who held gender-egalitarian attitudes often used essentialist statements with their preschool-age children. Also, they rarely challenged gender stereotypes (e.g., “It’s ok if a girl wants to play basketball”).12,13
On average, parents in many industrialized cultures are more flexible about the play activities they consider acceptable for daughters than sons.6,10(Relatively little research has examined parental attitudes toward girls’ and boys’ play in non-western or non-industrialized countries.) Also, fathers tend to be more rigid than mothers in encouraging gender-typed play (especially in sons).6,10 For example, many American parents encourage athletic participation (a masculine-stereotyped activity) in their daughters. In contrast, few parents encourage doll play (a feminine-stereotyped activity) in their sons. Indeed, many parents are alarmed in such cases. However, evidence suggests that some parents are more tolerant of cross-gender-typed behaviours in sons than seen in earlier decades.4,14
More research is needed that addresses the extent and the manner by which parents influence their children’s gender development. Previous research has been largely based on correlational designs that do not prove causation. Some associations in behaviour between parents and their biological children may be due to shared genetic influences (e.g., activity level is partly inherited).2 Well-conducted longitudinal research is best able to address possible casual influences. The relative importance of parents compared to other socializing agents (peer groups, media, teachers, etc.) needs to be examined in more depth. In addition, more research needs to consider indirect forms of parental influence. For example, by encouraging children’s involvement in organized activities (e.g., sports teams, science camps), parents can affect their children’s experience outside of the family.15 Finally, we need a better understanding of how cultural contexts shape gender roles in the family and the socialization of girls and boys.16
Dramatic transformations in women’s and men’s roles inside and outside of the family have occurred during the last half century in most of the industrialized world. The traditional image of the two-parent heterosexual family with the father serving as the provider and the mother as the homemaker is no longer the norm in many industrialized countries. Instead, most mothers pursue jobs outside of the home and many fathers are involved in childcare. In addition, many children are raised by single parents and by lesbian/gay parents. Despite these role changes, there remain relatively few truly egalitarian parenting arrangements. Also, studies suggest that parents with gender-egalitarian attitudes may nonetheless act differently with daughters and sons.12 Longitudinal studies suggest that parents’ treatment of sons and daughters may have an influence on some aspects of their gender development.3,6
Implications for Parents, Service Providers, and Policy Makers
Parents, service providers, and policy makers may wish to foster more flexible gender roles in children to help them develop a broader repertoire of socioemotional and cognitive skills. Although parents can have an influence on children’s gender development, their impact can sometimes be overestimated. Because gender is a social category that organizes virtually every segment of society, there are multiple sources of socialization in children’s gender development. Besides parents, these potentially include other family members, peer groups, friends, the media, and teachers.11 As children get older and become more autonomous, the influences of peers and the media often become especially powerful.
Parents can try to encourage their children to play with a combination of feminine- and masculine-stereotyped toys and play activities during early childhood; however, they may find their efforts run counter to children’s attitudes once they are exposed to peers and the media. In addition, parents can be mindful of the kinds of peers with whom their children affiliate. They may be able to foster greater gender-role flexibility through encouragement of organized mixed-gender activities in which girls and boys learn to work together as equals. Finally, parents can make a concerted effort to discuss and challenge gender stereotypes with their children.
- Bussey K., Bandura A. Social cognitive theory of gender development and differentiation. Psychological Review. 1999;106:676-713.
- Collins WA, Maccoby EE, Steinberg L, Hetherington EM, Bornstein MH. Contemporary research on parenting: The case for nature and nurture. American Psychologist. 2000;55:218-232.
- Ruble DN, Martin CL, Berenbaum S. Gender development. In Damon W, Lerner RM. (series eds), Eisenberg N (vol. ed.). Handbook of child psychology. Vol. 3. Social, emotional, and personality development, 6th ed. New York, NY: Wiley; 2006:858-932.
- Blakemore JEO, Hill CA. The Child Gender Socialization Scale: A measure to compare traditional and feminist parents. Sex Roles. 2008;58:192-2007.
- Marks JL, Lam CB, McHale SM. Family patterns of gender role attitudes. Sex Roles. 2009;61:221-234.
- McHale SM, Crouter AC, Whiteman S. The family contexts of gender development in childhood and adolescence. Social Development. 2003;12:125-148.
- Deutsch FM, Servis LJ, Payne JD. Paternal participation in child care and its effects on children’s self-esteem and attitudes toward gendered roles. Journal of Family Issues. 2001;22:1000-1024.
- Fulcher M, Sutfin EL, Patterson CJ. Individual differences in gender development: Associations with parental sexual orientation, attitudes, and division of labor. Sex Roles. 2008;58:330-341.
- Rafferty Y. International dimensions of discrimination and violence against girls: A human rights perspective. Journal of International Women's Studies. 2013;14:1-23.
- Lytton H, Romney DM. Parents’ differential socialization of boys and girls: A meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin. 1991;109:267-296.
- Leaper C, Bigler RS. Gender. In Underwood M, Rosen LH, eds. Social development: Relationships in infancy, childhood, and adolescence. New York: Guilford Press; 2011:289-315.
- Gelman SA, Taylor MG, Nguyen SP. The developmental course of gender differentiation. Monographs of the Society for Research in Children Development. 2004;69(1):vii-127.
- Friedman CK, Leaper C, Bigler RS. Do mothers’ gender-related attitudes or comments predict young children’s gender beliefs? Parenting: Science and Practice. 2007;7:357-366.
- Wood E, Desmarais S, Gugula S. The impact of parenting experience on gender stereotyped toy play of children. Sex Roles. 2002;47:39-49.
- Eccles JS, Barber BL, Stone M, Hunt J. Extracurricular activities and adolescent development. Journal of Social Issues. 2003;59:865-889.
- Best DL. Gender roles in childhood and adolescence. In Gielen UP, Roopnarine JL, eds. Childhood and adolescence in cross-cultural perspective. Westport, CT: Greenwood; 2004:199-228.