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Chapter 4

SOCA01H3 Chapter Notes - Chapter 4: George Herbert Mead, Symbolic Interactionism, Mcjob

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Sheldon Ungar

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Chapter 4: Socialization
The Consequences of Social Isolation in Childhood
Socialization: the process by which people learn to function in social life
They do this by
Entering and disengaging from a succession of roles
Becoming aware of themselves as they interact with others
Role: is the behavior expected of a person occupying a particular position in society
Formation of the Self
Self: consists of your ideas and attitudes about who you are
The first social-scientific interpretation of the process by which the self emerges
Noted that infants demand immediate gratification but begin to form self-image when their demands are
Argued only social interaction allows the self to emerge
Cooley’s Symbolic Interactionism
Charles Horton Cooley introduced the idea of the “looking-glass self”
Observed that when we interact with others, they gesture and react to us
This response allows us to imagine how we appear to others
We then judge how others evaluate us
Finally, from these judgments we develop a self-concept or a set of feelings and ideas about who we are
Our feelings about who we are depend largely on how we see ourselves evaluated by others
Symbolic interactionism the idea that in the course of face to face communication, people engage in a
creative process of attaching meaning to things
George Herbert Mead further developed the idea of the looking-glass self
I: is the subjective and impulsive aspect of the self is present from birth
Me: is the objective component of the self that emerges as people communicate symbolically and
learn to take the role of the other
Drew attention to the unique human capacity to “take the role of the other” as the source of the me
Mead’s Four Stages of Development: Role Taking
Mead saw the self as developing in four stages of role taking:
At first, children learn to use language and other symbols by imitating important people in their lives
such as their mother and father
Significant Others: Are people who play important roles in the early socialization experiences
of children
Next, children pretend to be other people
They use their imaginations to role-play in games such as house
Then, about the time they reach the age of seven, children learn to play complex games that require them
to simultaneously take the role of several people
Once a child can think in this complex way, she can begin the fourth stage in the development of the
self, which involves taking the role of generalized other
Generalized Other: is a person’s image of cultural standards and how they apply to him or her
At the Intersection of Biography and History
Socialization is a lifelong process
From birth to death, the expectations and behaviour of the people around us change, and in response we
change, too.
Sociology of the Life Course
Life Course: refers to the distinct phases of life through which people pass. These stage vary from one
society and historical period to another
Often marked by the rites of passage
Rites of passage: are cultural ceremonies that mark the transition from one stage of life to
another (eg baptisms, confirmations, weddings) or from life to death (funerals)
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Rituals do not mark all transitions in the life course
Some stages of the life course are established not just by norms but also the law
Ex: societies have laws that stipulate the minimum age for buying tobacco, driving, drinking and voting,
and retirement age
Although some life-course events are universal birth, puberty, marriage, and death not all cultures attach
the same significance to them
Childhood and Adolescence
The idea of childhood emerged when and where it did because of social necessity and social possibility
Prolonged childhood was necessary in societies that required better-educated adults to do increasingly
complex work because childhood gave young people a chance to prepare for adult life
Prolonged childhood was possible in societies where improved hygiene and nutrition allowed most people
to live more than 35 years.
Before the late seventeenth century, most people did not live long enough to permit the luxury of
Moreover, young people faced no social need for a period of extended training and development before
the comparatively simple demands of adulthood were thrust upon them
In general, wealthier and more complex societies whose populations enjoy a long average life expectancy
stretch out the pre-adult period of life
Once teenagers were relieved of adult responsibilities, a new term was coined to describe the teenage years:
Subsequently, the term young adulthood entered popular usage as an increasingly large number of people in
their late teens, 20s, and early 30s delayed marriage to attend university
Age Cohort
Age Cohort: is a category of people born in the same range of years
Age Roles: norms and expectations about the behavior of people in different age cohorts
Form an important part of our sense of self and others
As we pass through the stages of the life course, we assume different age roles
A child should act life a child, an older person should act like an older person
We formalize some age roles by law
Minimum age for smoking, drinking, driving and voting
No two cohorts have the same experience as they pass through the age structure
As the members of a cohort move through a given range of years, they both change and are changed by
their experiences
Generation: is an age cohort that shares unique formative experiences during the first few decades of
life, which help to shape a collective identity and set of values
Age cohorts are statistically convenient categories, but members of a generation form a group with a
collective identity and shared values
Not all cohorts can become a generation
Generations are most likely to form during times of rapid social change
When society is in upheaval, young people seeking to find their way in the world can no longer rely on
the predictable patterns of the past but must carve out new trails
Canada has five indentifiable generations today
1. The Greatest Generation
Currently passing away and whose experiences are increasingly known only through history books
Born between the early 1900s and 1928
Called the greatest generation because they came of age during the Great Depression and then went
to endure WWII
Laid the groundwork for economic prosperity and stability
2. The Silent Generation
Parents of the baby boomers
Born between 1929 1945
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