Foundations for Socialization
Socialization is the process of social interaction by which people acquire those behaviors
essential for effective participation in society, the process of becoming a social being. It is
essential for the renewal of culture and the perpetuation of society. The individual and society
are mutually dependent on socialization.
Nature and Nurture. Human socialization presupposes that an adequate genetic
endowment and an adequate environment are available. Hereditary and environmental
factors interact with and affect each other.
Theories of Socialization. Theories of socialization include functionalist and conflict
theory perspectives as well as three microlevel approaches. Social learning theory
emphasizes conditioning and observational learning. Cognitive developmental theory
argues that socialization proceeds differently in the sensorimotor, preoperational,
concrete operational, and formal operations stages. Symbolic interactionists
say reflexive behavior facilitates the development of the self.
Agents of Socialization. One of the most important early agents of socialization is the
family. As children grow, peers and schools become important agents of socialization.
The mass media, especially television, also serve as agents of socialization.
Social Communication. If they are to adapt to their social environment, human beings
must be able to communicate. Communication refers to the process by which people
transmit information, ideas, attitudes, and mental states to one another. It includes the
verbal and nonverbal processes (body language, paralanguage, proxemics, touch,
and artifacts) by which we send and receive messages.
Definition of the Situation. An important part of socialization is learning what
constitutes reality-the basic schemes we use to make sense of and understand the social
and physical world. Definition of the situationis the interpretation or meaning we give
to our immediate circumstances. Our definitions influence our construction of reality, an
insight captured by the Thomas theorem.
The Self and Socialization
The formation of the self-the set of concepts we use in defining who we are-is a central part of
the socialization process. The self emerges in the course of interaction with other people and
represents the ideas we have regarding our attributes, capacities, and behavior. It typically
includes an egocentric bias.
Charles Horton Cooley: The Looking-Glass Self. Charles Horton Cooley's notion that
our consciousness arises in a social context is exemplified by his concept of the looking-
glass self—a process by which we imaginatively assume the stance of other people and
view ourselves as we believe they see us. Self-image is differentiated from self-
conception. Self-esteem is governed by reflected appraisals, social
comparisons, and self-attribution. Personal efficacy is another aspect of self-
George Herbert Mead: The Generalized Other. George Herbert Mead contended that
we gain a sense of selfhood by acting toward ourselves in much the same fashion that we
act toward others. According to Mead, children typically pass through three stages in
developing a full sense of selfhood: the play stage, in which the child plays r