I split this post on socialisation into two parts to make it easier to read as the second half is rather long.
Socialisation: A lifelong process through which people learn appropriate attitudes, values and behaviours in a particular society or culture. Socialisation helps people learn skills and abilities used to interact with others as well aiding them in understanding what kind of person they are. Individuals acquire their culture and become aware of their individuality i.e. as conscious, reflective entities. They develop a self-identity.
Forms of socialisation
- Primary socialisation – the foundation for all later learning, beginning in infancy and childhood (typically within a family or household of carers).
- Secondary socialisation – takes place in later childhood and continues in later life when the individual acquires a broader range of social skills and a more detailed knowledge of roles outside the family.
- Re-socialisation – a specific form of secondary socialisation. It involves discarding former behaviour patterns and accepting new ones as a part of a life transition. Typically involves considerable stress for the individual, much more so than socialisation in general. E.g. prisons, religious conversion, therapy groups, dramatic changes in people’s lives.
Agents of socialisation
Each agent can be analysed deeply, these are just a quick overviews.
- Family – the lifelong learning process begins shortly after birth, since newborns can hear, see, smell, taste and feel heat, cold, pleasure and pain; they are constantly orientating themselves to the surrounding world. Human beings, especially family members, constitute an important part of their social environment.
- School – like family, schools have a responsibility to socialise people in the UK to the norms and values of British culture.
- Peer group – as children grow older, the family becomes less important in social development and peer groups increasingly assume a more significant role – that of ‘significant others’ (individuals who are most important in the development of self). Within peer groups, young people associate with others who are roughly their own age and who often enjoy a similar social status. Peer groups ease the transition to adult responsibilities, although they can be the source of harassment as well as support.
- Media and technology – in the last 80 years media innovations – radio, cinema, music, TV and internet – have become important agents of socialisation. TV in particular is critical in western societies. Also, the internet leads to globalised socialisation with the same resources available world-wide.
- Workplace – learning to behave appropriately within an occupation is a fundamental aspect of human socialisation. Socialisation in the workplace changes when it involves a more permanent shift from an after-school job to full employment. Occupational socialisation is most intense during the transition from school to job, but it continues throughout a persons’ work history. Technological advancements may alter the requirements of the position and instigate a degree of re-socialisation. Today people change occupations, employers and places of work many times during their life so occupational socialisation continues throughout a person’s years in the labour market.
- The state, institutions, politics – the state has a noteworthy impact on the life course by reinstituting rites of passage that had disappeared from agricultural societies and during periods of early industrialisation. E.g. government regulations stipulate the age at which a person can drive a care, drink alcohol, have sex, vote in elections, marry without parental consent, work overtime and retire. These regulations shape the socialisation process by affecting the life course to some degree and by influencing our views of appropriate behaviours at particular ages.
There are many issues with socialisation, if a child is raised by neglectful or abusive parents this affects their socialisation. However, you cannot stereotype and say a child will grow up repeating their parents’ actions; they could take the complete opposite path. Similarly, just because a child grew up in a well-off background with loving parents does not mean they are unable to go spiralling down a dangerous road due to negative influences beyond the home. So which is more important, primary or secondary socialisation? Can secondary socialisation ever correct problems (or endanger positive events) which occurred in primary socialisation?
What have been your experiences with socialisation? Is it a positive or negative phenomenon? Or is it merely a necessary evil since you cannot help but be affected by your surroundings?
To end part one: a word of warning – influences such as the media, politics and institutions should be looked at from a distance since they all have their own agendas and so their truths should not be considered the only answer.