Socialization: Definition, Agents, and Examples of Socializing
What is Socialization and Why is it Important?
Socialization is a process that occurs over a lifetime where we acquire inherited social norms, values, and behaviors from other individuals. We also pass on our social habits to others in society. This interaction determines how we fit into society and participate with it.
The purpose of socialization is to learn how to be a functioning member of society. That is, how to not make a faux pas at a party, how you know not to wear a bra if you’re a boy, or how to know to put on deodorant in a restaurant. We are training ourselves or others to know what to do in certain situations.
What is an Agent of Socialization?
There are nine main agents of socialization. These are:
- family – the main agent
- peers – very important influences
- school – breaks bonding with parents. Influence depends on the values the school and teachers hold. (i.e. Julian the Apostate wouldn’t let Christians teach as he knew teachers can change the minds of a generation).
- mass media – the importance of its influence depends on what is read, watched, or listened to, and the frequency with which it is consumed
- religion – I find this one isn’t mentioned too much, but it is by far the most important in many people’s lives. I’ve seen people completely change the course of their life story overnight because they’ve heard about Jesus love for them. See Run, Baby, Run as an example.
- sports and
- the workplace.
There are others, but these are the greatest influences on people.
Advantages of Socialization
There are several benefits of socialization. These are:
- less loneliness which makes you feel better
- building constructive relationships (unless you have bad peer groups as found in many schools)
- improving the growth and development of a person
- occupying the mind and keeping it ticking so you can avoid things like dementia
- a reduction in stress and anxiety
- learning how other cultures (or groups) like to do things – understanding their perspectives and attributes
- getting emotional, physical and spiritual support – one reason Christians go to church
Types of Socialization
There are a few different types of socialization. These are:
- desocialization and
We’ll go through these separately below and give some examples.
Primary socialization is when a child learns values and behaviors that should be displayed so they can live accordingly to a certain culture. An example is when a child learns he/she should put on deodorant as that’s the norm in society.
Secondary socialization is when a person learns the right behavior that is supposed to be displayed in a microcosm of individuals (or a small group) which is part of the larger society. A great example of this is when children in a grammar school believe it is ‘cool’ to study because they have a number of other good examples around them who study hard. Another example of this is when a child learns to put down other children in their peer group because that’s what his friends (the smaller microcosm of individuals) want him to do.
Developmental socialization is when you deliberately focus on developing socialization skills which help you learn a process. An example of this is going to learn how to publicly speak at Toastmasters because you’re not a good public speaker or you get shy when you want to talk in public.
Anticipatory socialization is when an individual rehearses for a future situation they are anticipating. They start acting out what it would be like to be in that situation. An example of this is when you do work experience to find out if you like a particular profession.
Desocialization is training to take away our past self-images which we learned (by socialization) previously. Interestingly, a good example of desocialization is the deschooling process whereby homeschoolers deinstitutionalize themselves from the mindset of school (see Ivan Illich quotes here for context).
Resocialization is learning new norms and values so you can fit into new situations with which you have not been familiar with in your past. When you marry, although you don’t like football, you learn to like it because your husband likes it. Soon you start learning all about your husband’s football team and you go to games with him.
The Process of Socialization
The process of socialization requires some steps. These steps are commonly called stages of socialization. The stages of socialization are:
- Investigation – whereby an individual sizes up a group and tries to see if it will be a good fit for him or her. The group does the same. The end of this stage is when the group invites the new person in and the person accepts.
- Socialization – the new member accepts the group’s culture, whether good or bad. They assimilate into the group and adopt their norms, values, and beliefs
- Maintenance – the new member and the group negotiate what the group expects of the new member (the way they should act, or another contribution). The individual can be thrown out if they don’t meet group expectations, or they can renegotiate and come back into the group.
- Resocialization – depending on the outcome of the maintenance stage, the member will be received back into the groups fold and learn to act accordingly, or they will be ejected and have to learn to live outside the group.
- and Remembrance – people who have left the group remember their memories in the group. They make sense of their exit and figure out their reasons for going.
The movie Mean Girls is a great example of socialization in schools taking place as the main character tries to fit into her new environment after being homeschooled for a time. See the clip below.
Social skills are any competency you learn that helps you interact and talk with other people where social rules and relationships are made and transmitted in different ways. To have these skills, you have to interact with other people and form a relationship with them. According to Wiki:
Social skills are the tools that enable people to communicate, learn, ask for help, get needs met in appropriate ways, get along with others, make friends, develop healthy relationships, protect themselves, and in general, be able to interact with the society harmoniously. Social skills build essential character traits like trustworthiness, respectfulness, responsibility, fairness, caring, and citizenship. These traits help build an internal moral compass, allowing individuals to make good choices in thinking and behavior, resulting in social competence.
Social skills include:
- active listening and
- social perceptiveness.
Socialization is important in child development as it protects against anxiety, depression, and a host of other negative consequences. It is a powerful tool that can be used for good or evil. Socialization can be used for evil when carers or peers don’t love and care for those they’re influencing; it can be used for good when carers and peers care for those they influence. How will you use it?