Families and Socialization
While it is common to use the term ‘the family’ as if it only consisted of one form, this
chapter forcefully demonstrates that there is no such thing as ‘the family’; rather, Canada, as a
result of changing demographics as well as changing social and legal norms, is marked by a
diverse range of family forms. In other words, it is more appropriate to talk of families, rather
than ‘the family’.
A recurrent theme throughout the chapter is the distinction between the idealized family
and the actual family; that is, family members are ideally expected to care for and protect other
members. In actuality, they may not care for them at all; some families even neglect, exploit, or
abuse their own members. While indifference and abuse are not idealized and normative features
of family life, they are nonetheless a common occurrence.
Families are also primary socialization agents; it is in the context of the family home that
children gain the knowledge necessary to become functioning members of society. However, it is
noted that socialization also results in the perpetuation of inequalities of class, gender, and race.
As noted in an earlier chapter, socialization is a life-long process; thus, the types of socialization
that take place beyond childhood and adolescence are also examined in this chapter.
In this chapter, you will
• learn to distinguish between good and bad parenting, and see how parenting influences a
• find out how families cope differently with opportunities and crises;
• see how families reproduce gender, race, ethnicity, and class identities; and,
• come to understand the different forms families can take and the ways ‘family life’ has
changed over time.
anticipatory socialization: Learning about and preparing for future roles, built on accumulated
census family: A household that includes two spouses—opposite or same-sex, married or
cohabiting (if they have lived together for longer than one year)—with or without never-married
children, or a single parent with one or more never-married children.
extended family: Multiple generations of relatives living together, or several adult siblings with
their spouses and children who share a dwelling and resources. More than three kinds of
relationships may be present.
family: For the purpose of this chapter, any social unit, or set of social relations, that does what
families are popularly imagined to do, by whatever means it does so.
primary socialization: Learning that takes place in the early years of a person’s life that is
crucial to the formation of an individual’s personality.
resocialization: Learning within social institutions aimed at retraining or reprogramming
secondary socialization: Learning that occurs after childhood, usually involving learning
specific roles, norms, attitudes, or beliefs, and sometimes involving self-imposed learning.
socialization: The lifelong social learning a person undergoes to become a capable member of
society, through social interaction with others, and in response to social pressures.
Handel, G. (ed.) (2006). Childhood Socialization, 2nd ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine
This book examines agents of socialization that have an impact on social learning by
children. It gives an interesting account of how socialization differs in different societies and
Albanese, P. (2007). Children in Canada Today. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
This book is part of a series of works on important sociological topics with specific emphasis
on Canadian issues. Albanese explores themes of childhood socialization, such as socializing
agents and their impact, changes in social policy, and the relation of socialization to family
and social problems.
Bibby, R. W. (2001). Canada’s Teens: Today, Yesterday, and Tomorrow. Toronto: Stoddart.
Canadian sociologist Reginald Bibby is well known for his surveys of adolescents and adults,
as well as his studies of religion. This book historically explores the experiences of
adolescents around topics like violence, sex, and drugs in relation to teenager beliefs, values,
worries, and enjoyments. 3
Baker, M. (2007). Choices and Constraints in Family Life. Toronto: Oxford University Press.
In this book, the author examines families within a historical and cross-cultural context. She
argues that although we now have more choice in intimate partners, sexual behaviour, and
the types of families we live in, these choices are also influenced by socio-economic context,
including social policies, technology, educational opportunities, and so on. All of these must
be examined to understand the changing nature of Canadian families.
Tapscott, D. (1998). Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw-
In this book, Tapscott argues that the children of baby boomers are part of what he calls the
‘Net generation’, meaning they are growing up surrounded by high-tech toys and tools from
birth. This preoccupation with technology may have a significant impact on the future of
these children, changing the nature of education, commerce, recreation, the workplace,
government, and the family.
McDaniel, S. A., & Tepperman, L. (2010). Close Relations: An Introduction to the Sociology of
Families, 3rd ed. Scarborough, ON: Pearson Educational.
This is a Canadian overview of research and social theories about family life, examining
topics such as the history of Canadian families, intimate relationships, parenting, stress and
violence in the family context, and the future of families.
Becker, H. S., Geer, B., Hughes, E. C., & Strauss, A. L. (1961). Boys in White: Student Culture
in Medical School. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
This is a classic sociological work on professional socialization. It not only explores how
medical students learn about medical terms, healthcare, disease, prevention, and so on, but also
focuses on how medical school socializes students into the social role of the doctor.
Vanier Institute of the Family
The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY)
Canadian Child Care Federation
Childcare Research and Resource Unit (CRRU)
Public Safety Canada
Multiple Choice Questions
1. __________ see the family as a microcosm of society, with individual family members
coming together in a unified and productive whole.
a) Symbolic interactionists
b) Critical theorists
2. According to Talcott Parsons and Robert Bales, the husband of the household performs a(n)
__________ role, while the wife performs an __________ role.
a) expressive; instrumental
b) dominant; subservient
c) instrumental; expressive
d) ‘I’; ‘Me’
3. Which of the following statements regarding critical theorists’ approaches to family life is
a) They take a historical approach to this subject.
b) They look for universal truths about family life.
c) They focus on political and economic changes in society to explain changes in family
d) all of the above
4. Helen is conducting research on myths about family. She is most likely working from the
a) symbolic interactionist
d) critical 5
5. The top-down approach to socialization is associated with the __________ perspective.
c) symbolic interactionist
6. Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead were both __________ theorists.
b) symbolic interactionist
7. Charles Horton Cooley termed the sense of awareness we acquire about ourselves through
the reactions of others as the
b) social self.
c) looking-glass self.
d) generalized other.
8. __________ divided the self-concept into the ‘I’ and the ‘Me’.
a) Talcott Parsons
b) Sigmund Freud
c) Charles Horton Cooley
d) George Herbert Mead
9. According to George Herbert Mead, __________ is central to successful socialization.
b) strict parenting
c) a good education
d) all of the above
10. Which of the following is not a trend in changing family patterns as identified by William
a) The decrease in family size, virtually everywhere in the world.
b) Family patterns everywhere are moving towards the modified nuclear family model.
c) A change in role relations, with women and children having more power.
d) The increased acceptance of changed social morals and virtues.
11. Multiple generations of relatives living together is an example of a(n)
a) nuclear family.
b) census family.
c) extended family.
d) conjugal family.
12. Same-sex couples represent about _____ percent of all couples in Canada.
13. Single-parent families represent about _____ percent of all families in Canada.
14. Which of the following statements about cohabiting unions is tru