4.1 Social Isolation and the Crystallization of Self-Identity
1800 – “the wild boy of Aveyron” - raised in isolation (with abuse) from other human
beings, acted more animals although no major physical or mental abnormalities. They rarely
develop normally; disinterested in games, intimate social relations, and only have the basic
language skills. May suffer from subnormal intelligence.
Socialization – the process by which people learn their culture- including norms, values and
roles – and become aware of themselves as they interact with others
The ability to learn culture and become human is only a potential – reached w/ socialization
o 1. Entering and disengaging from a succession of roles – the behaviour expected of a
person occupying a particular position in society
o 2. Becoming aware of themselves as they interact with others
Rene Spitz (1945, 1962) – compared babies raised in an orphanage and those raised in a
prison nursing home. Those raised in the nursing home – more contact with people and
society. Depriving infants of social stimuli made them less demanding – thus they hung
sheets hiding social activity.
Social deprivation had other effects:
o 9-12 months more susceptible to infections and a higher death rate
o Slower to talk and walk at 2-3 years
o Normal children play with their genitals at 1 year, but these children only at 4 years
– impaired sexual life?
Childhood socialization makes us fully human – otherwise human potential remains
undeveloped. Continues in adolescence – turbulent period of rapid self-development –
experiences helped crystallize their self-identity.
The central growth process in adolescence is to define the self through the clarification of
experience and the establish self-esteem. – Freedenberg
o Eg. Getting a lead part in a play – increase social status, more self-confidences, being
good at something, discovering parts of oneself
Agents of socialization – families, schools, peer groups, and the mass media. In these
settings we learn how to control our impulses, think of ourselves as members of different
groups. Value certain ideals and perform various roles.
o Can produce mixed messages – more difficult to decide who we are
o Childhood and adolescence have more adult role in todays world
4.2 Theories of Childhood Socialization
Self – consists of your ideas and attitudes about who you are
Social interaction enables infants to begin development of the self
Process by which self emerges:
o Infants demand immediate gratification by begin to form a self-image when their
demands are denied
Eg. Refusing to give more food in the middle of the night Encourage adjustments to behavior – eating more before going to
Infants realize its needs differ from its parents – existence
independent of other
Develops a sense of appropriate behaviour and morals – conscience
with cultural standards
Mechanism that balances pleasure and restraining components is
Early thinkers believe the self emerges naturally
Freud argued, social interaction allows us to emerge
Focused on the denial of the impulsive side of the self as the mechanism that generates the
self’s objective side
Cooley’s Symbolic interactionism
Introduced “looking-glass self”
Founder of the symbolic interactionism tradition and an early contributor to the
sociological study of socialization
o Observed that when we interest with other, they gesture and react to us
o Allows us to imagine how we appear to them - we judge others how others judge us
o We then develop a self-concept or a set of feelings and ideas about who we are.
o The self depends on how we see ourselves evaluated by others
Eg. Teachers evaluate students negatively – students develop negative concept that causes
their poor behaviour
Developed “looking-glass self”
The I – the subjective and impulsive aspect of the self that is present from birth
The me – the objective component of the self that emerges as people communicate
symbolically and learn to take the role of the other
Focused on 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
1. Children learn to use language and other symbols by imitating significant others –
important people in their lives such as mother, father, etc.
2. Children pretend to be other people, such as games – playing house.
3. At 7 years old, children play complex games that require them to take the role of several
other people, such as different positions in baseball.
4. Children take the role of the generalized other – a person’s image of cultural standards
and how they apply to him or her. An example, if how a person is viewed as funny.
Cognitive skills developed in stages from infancy to teenage years – Piaget and Inhelder
Morality developed in stages – Kohlberg
Carol Gilligan – how factors help explain differences in the sense of self that boys and girls
Adult authorities pass on cultural standards to boys and girls
Ideal women – eager to please and non-assertive Girls learn to be the ideal women as they mature – dealing with more male authoritative
Girls tend to develop lower self-esteem than boys do
Sociological factors explain the development of cognitive styles of different cultures
Eg. Ancient China vs. ancient Greece.
o China – irrigation, agriculture meant cooperation and hierarchy important. Thus,
harmony and social order central to Chinese life – whole system.
o Greece – small-scale herding and fishing meant less socially complex. Thus, personal
freedom central – discrete categories.
4.3 How Socialization Works
Why does socialization form such a wide range of individual characters?
o Humans are surrounded and influenced by social environment – composed of the
real or imagined others to whom individuals must adapt to satisfy their own needs
o Adaption – process of changing one’s actions to maximize the degree to which an
environment satisfies one’s needs and interests
Eg. Learning to ride a bike
o Must adjust behaviour to the physical environment – gravity
o Environment provides feedback – scrapes, falls, etc.
o To cooperate and satisfy her biking interest, one must act differently
Social environments shape its participants though socialization
o Different types of families = different demands for children
o Different schools = different expectations
o Abusive family = children learn differently
Socialization in an evolutionary process:
o 1. In any environment a person acts on the basis of their existing personal
characteristics and interests
o 2. The environment responds to the person’s actions cooperatively or not
o 3. The environmental response shapes the individual’s conduct by either reinforcing
existing patterns (cooperation) or encouraging change (resistance).
Individual character leads to actions to which environments respond selectively.
o Cooperatively – satisfy needs – rewards reinforce individual characteristics
o No cooperation – frustrate needs – change (learning) encouraged
Eg. Socialization in families encourage children to become people to respond to their
environment and get it to cooperate
4.4 Theories and Agents of Socialization
Functionalists – socialization helps maintain orderly social relations – less freedom
Conflict and feminists – class, gender, etc. vital to socialization causes social change
Symbolic internationalists – creativity of individual in attaching meaning to social
Socialization processes operate through social institutions:
Families Most important agent of primary socialization – the process of acquiring the basic skills
needed to function in society during childhood; takes place in a family.
Small group, content, intimate attention – ideal for children to learn
Family into which you are born exerts an enduring influence - religion
o Eg. Religion – long term – exist because it is passed onto children
o Eg. Canadians who leave a religion, often return to it
Family less important now
o Industry grew – more working men and women
o More divorce rates, different types of families, less normality
o Less child socialization
Schools: Functions and Conflicts
Secondary socialization – socialization outside the family after childhood
Public school system – Canadians are among the most highly educated in the world 2009
Hidden curriculum – in school involves teaching obedience to authority and conformity to
o Teaches kids how to be “good citizens” – very important to parents
o Teaches students punctuality, respect for authority, importance of competition, and
other conformist behaviors and beliefs
o Proposed by conflict theorists who see struggle between privileged and
Disadvantaged struggled with hidden curriculum since conflicts with their
earlier socialization, though some outliers
Poor in schoo