What is Socialization?
Socialization is the lifelong process of social interaction through which individuals acquire a self-
identity and the physical, mental, and social skills needed for survival in society.
Socialization is an interactive process.
o Social interaction: learning to recognize and respond socially to important people within
o The development of individual personality
o Cultural transmission
o Social integration
Social environment is a crucial part of an individual’s socialization; people need social contact
with others in order to develop properly.
Research shows the effects of social isolation on nonhuman primates that are raised without
contact with others of their own species (e.g., the Harlows experiments with young rhesus
Social scientists have documented the detrimental effects of extreme isolation on children’s
development (e.g. Genie). Harlows’ study on monkeys
• Primary socialization occurs from birth through adolescence.
• Family is the most important agent in primary socialization.
• Primary socialization is both intentional and unintentional.
• Primary socialization is largely imposed, although there is some reciprocity in parent–child
• Secondary socialization occurs throughout the life cycle as people anticipate and adjust to new
• Secondary socialization is a reciprocal process.
• Secondary socialization is based on previous experience.
• Secondary socialization is different from primary socialization in that it involves more choice and
more limits (based on previous experience).
'Acquisition of values and orientations found in statuses and groups in which one is not yet
engaged but which one is likely to enter.' (Merton)
o The effectiveness of anticipatory socialization depends on:
Ambiguity of the new situation
Similarity to previous experiences
E.g., parenting classes, household chores, childhood jobs, sports, dance
lessons, and dating, university education.
Resocialization occurs when socialization is needed into a situation so unique that previous
experience cannot be used to anticipate behaviour.
Some institutions (prisons, psychiatric hospitals) are mandated to resocialize ‘deviants’.
o Stated aims are often less important than latent messages.
o Zimbardo’s study: Theories of Socialization:
A. Learning Theories/Behaviorists:
• Learning theory, which has its roots in behaviourism, assumes that the same concepts and
principles that apply to animals apply to humans.
• One learns to make a certain response on the basis of the outcome that the response produces.
• Pavlov’s dog is a well-known example of classical conditioning.
In this series of experiments, a hungry dog is placed into a soundproof room and hears a tuning
fork before receiving some meat. After this situation is repeated, the dog salivates when hearing
the tuning fork.
• Operant conditioning focuses attention on the response which is not related to any known
stimulus. For example, children may say ‘dada’ when they realize that they are likely to be
• Many have questioned whether animal behaviour can be so easily imputed to human behaviour.
B. Psychoanalytic Approach:
Freud pointed out the importance of socialization stating that peoples’ biological drives may
be controlled by the values and moral demands of society that are learned primarily during
three interrelated parts of the mind:
o The id is the impulsive, unconscious component of the mind. It includes all of the
individuals basic biological drives and needs that demand immediate gratification.
o The superego, or conscience, consists of the moral and ethical aspects of
personality. The superego refers to that part of the mind that has internalized
o The ego balances the two in cognitive, conscious thought processes. When a person
is well-adjusted, the ego successfully manages the opposing forces of the id and the.
C. Sociological Theories of Human Development:
According to Charles Horton Cooley's looking-glass self, a person’s sense of self is derived from
the perceptions of others.
Self-concept is derived from a three step process:
o We imagine how our personality and appearance will look to other people.
o We imagine how other people judge the appearance and personality that we think we
o We develop a self-concept. If we think the evaluation of others is favourable, our self-
concept is enhanced. If we think the image is unfavourable, our self-concept is
the definition of situation: people define the situation and act according to their interpretation
of the appropriate behavior.
Thomas Theorem: "It is not important whether or not the interpretation is correct-- if [people]
define situations as real, they are real in their consequences."
C.3 Symbolic Interactionism of Mead:
Mead emphasizes the role of interaction between social environment and personality.
Self emerges out of social experience.
Mead divided the self into:
o the "I“: the subjective element of the self that represents the spontaneous and unique
traits of each person o the "me“ the objective element of the self, which is composed of the internalized
attitudes and demands of other members of society and the individuals awareness of
The "I" and the "me" take form during three stages of self development:
o preparatory stage: children largely imitate the people around them;
o play stage: (from age 3 to 5) children learn to use language and other symbols, thus
making it possible for them to pretend to take the roles of specific people;
o game stage: children understand not only their own social position but also the
positions of others around them. At this time, the child develops a generalized other--an
awareness of the demands and expectations of the society as a whole or of the child’s
Role-taking (Mead) is a dynamic process.
o Scripts are not completely set
o An actor reacts to other actors' actions
Symbols: interaction rests on mutual understanding of symbols (language)
Role-taking: our response to actions of others, based on understanding of their
Self: based on our perception of others' reactions to our role-taking
Mind: internal conversation with self; this allows us to recognize objects in the