Socialization feelings and behaviour are all a result

Socialization is the lifelong process
by which humans learn how to behave in society. This process is different for
everyone, based on their race, gender and class. Our thoughts, feelings and
behaviour are all a result of the way in which we were socialized as children.
There are many different agents of socialization, including education, family,
peers and media. Our sense of self emerges from a mix of these factors in our
lives. In this essay, I will be analysing family as an agent of socialization
and I will briefly discuss how family has impacted my social development. There
are many theories surrounding how socialization occurs and in this essay, I
will also examine a few of these theories.

 Family is seen by many as the primary agent of
socialization. It provides the foundation for the child’s social development and
is the primary support system for the child. From birth, the child is
completely dependent on their family for survival. The family is responsible
for providing the child with food, shelter and other basic necessities. Our
parents, or primary caregivers, are also essentially our first educators. No
matter what type of family a child is born into, this basic unit of society plays
a significant role in shaping the development of the child. They are
responsible for teaching us simple tasks such as how to dress ourselves, but
they also teach us what we need to know to become fully functioning members of
society. This includes teaching the child right from wrong, societal norms and
values and teaching them how to behave appropriately in society.

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 As I previously mentioned, socialization is a
lifelong process. However, the most important phase of socialization occurs in
childhood, when the child is absorbing everything in their environment. Maria
Montessori once described the child as having an “absorbent mind”, as they
begin to imitate language and behaviour used by those around them. It is
therefore important for the family to model appropriate and acceptable
behaviour, as the child knows no better than to copy. Concepts such as sharing
and turn taking are all social skills that the child will learn at the
beginning of life. These are crucial to a healthy social development and to
allow the child to become part of their society. The child as young as birth is
also absorbing basic verbal and non-verbal communication skills, which will
allow them to interact with others in society.

 Familial relationships are a few of the first
relationships for a child. Many children will develop attachments to their
parents or primary caregivers. Although most attachments have a positive
influence on the socialization of the child, some may have negative
effects.  Mary Ainsworth conducted a
Strange Situation test and from the results, she proposed that there are three
types of attachment; secure attachment, insecure (avoidant) attachment and
insecure (resistant) attachment. Studies have shown that ‘those rated as
securely attached to their mothers in infancy are later more sociable, have
more intimate friendships and have higher self-esteem. Those with insecure
attachments have less positive and supportive friendships in adolescence’
(Boyd, D.G. and Bee, H.L., 2014, p. 345). This is an interesting fact and it is
one that I have noticed to be particularly relevant in my life. My mother was a
stay-at-home mum when I was a child, which meant that I easily formed an
attachment to her. I attended a pre-school when I was 3 years old and I found
it very hard to transition from spending every day with my mum to spending a
few hours a day without her. From my research, I believe that I had a secure
attachment. When I was left alone, I was distressed but upon the return of my
mum, I was easily comforted. This can be reflected in my life now. I have
numerous positive friendships and I easily trust people. I am not dependent on
those around me, and I have an emotionally mature approach to settings outside
the home.

 It goes without saying that family plays a
significant role in influencing the child’s outlook on society. Many of us grow
to adopt the values and beliefs of our parents. Whether this is simply how we
view the world or whether it’s our political and religious beliefs, our
attitudes are greatly influenced by our family. I consider myself lucky that I
was given a great amount of freedom as a child. I was given the freedom to form
my own opinions on different matters. We were always taught to respect the
views of others, because everyone has the right to their own opinion. To this
day, my parents ensure that they don’t impose their religious and political
views on my brother and I. Now, at aged 19, I have formed many opinions of my
own, some that are different to those of my parents. As with all generations,
there will be differing opinions and my parents respect that.

 How we view ourselves and how much value we
see in ourselves is greatly affected by socialization. Family plays a
substantial role in facilitating high self-esteem in the child. How parents
define and treat a child is crucial to the child’s sense of self. Sibling
rivalry is a very common issue within families with two or more children.
Children begin to compete for attention from their parents and if one child
does succeed, the other may suffer with low self-esteem. It is particularly
common when it comes to school grades. Some families emphasise educational
achievement. Siblings may begin to compete for higher grades. For the children
that don’t reach the expected or favourable grades, it can result in low
confidence as their siblings may receive more praise for their work. I cannot
say that I have experienced this in my life. As a child, I was told that I can
only do my best. Of course, I was encouraged to work hard but high grades were
never a priority in my family. My brother and I did not experience much sibling
rivalry, the odd argument here and there but never to a great extent.

 Family, however, is losing its status as the
primary agent of socialization. In recent years, the family structure has experiences
some significant changes. The traditional stereotype that all families must
consist of a man, woman and their children is almost non-existent. Alongside
this nuclear family structure, there is single-parent families, blended
families, extended families and many more. In the 21st century, many
families experience separation, where the child’s parents will divorce. Same-sex
marriages are also very common nowadays, unlike 50 years ago when this was
frowned upon by many. These variations in the family structure change the way
the child is socialized. Values and beliefs can be different to those in a
nuclear family. In addition to these physical changes, the family has undergone
significant other changes with regards to values. Nowadays, within most
families, both parents will work outside the home. In the past, most women were
stay-at-home mums and it was their duty to look after the household and the
people in it. Times are changing, and women are being given many more
opportunities outside the home. This, however, means that children are spending
less and less time with their parents. Many parents are forced to put their
children in day-care and after-school facilities until they return from work.
Traditional family values are being overruled by technology and media. Families
in the past sat down together at the dinner table for meals, but this tradition
is now uncommon as we are now eating meals in front of the television.
Technological advances and the growth of social media means that children as
young as 3 and 4 are now sitting in front of tv or on an iPad instead of
playing outside with peers. Family is being overtaken by mass media in terms of
the teachings of societal norms. Children are watching the television and
observing the behaviour of the people they are seeing.

 The widely popular nature vs nurture debate
suggests that our traits are either hereditary (nature) or that these
characteristics are influenced by our external environment (nurture). According
to the famous theorists Charles Horton Cooley, George Herbert Mead and Sigmund
Freud, our knowledge is not innate, but it is acquired. These theorists believe
that we develop a sense of self through interactions with those around us. I
will now analyse some of their theories.

 Charles Horton Cooley created a concept known
as the Looking-Glass Self in 1902. He focused on the idea that our self-image
is not based on how we view ourselves but based on our perception of how others
view us. He believed that our self-concept is then derived from these ideas.
Cooley believed that this is a three-step process. Step one is how we imagine
we appear to others. This includes both appearance and personality. Do we
appear friendly or unfriendly, attractive or unattractive? Step two is what we
imagine others think of us, based on their observations. This leads us to step
three; we develop a self-concept based on how we think others view us. If we
believe others think highly of us, we will develop a favourable self-image.
However, if we perceive others to think negatively about us, we will develop an
unfavourable self-image. Cooley also believed that often, we misinterpret
people’s actions. We might perceive that someone thinks negatively of us,
however this is not always the case. This then will have a negative effect on
our self-concept. This self-identity then influences the way in which we
interact with others. Family plays a vital role in supporting the child’s
developing self-concept. “How parents define and treat a child is crucial to
the development of the child’s sense of self” (Moodle). Cooley emphasised that
this process is critical in childhood and adolescence, when we are still
discovering our sense of self. The family must always be supportive and encouraging
for the child to gain a positive self-concept.

 George Herbert Mead was a psychologist who
developed a theory of Social Behaviourism. Similar to Cooley, Mead believed
that we develop self-images through interactions with other people. However,
Mead believed that children learn through taking on the role of another person.
In play, children imitate others. By doing so, Mead believed that they learn
what is expected of them from this person. Younger children take on the role of
those closest to them (e.g. parents and siblings) whereas older children will
take on the role of others in society. This process involves 3 stages,
according to Mead; the imitation stage, the play stage and the game stage. In
the imitation stage, young children imitate the behaviour of those around them,
without truly understanding the purpose of this behaviour. By the age of 3,
children are now in the play stage. This is where the child begins to take the
role of someone else. This may be a family member or their favourite superhero.
The final stage is the game stage, where children start to play team sports and
games. Players take on a variety of roles and learn what is expected of each
role in society. Another aspect of Mead’s theory was that the self was composed
of the “I” and the “Me”. Both are parts of the individual’s self-concept and
the self is a dialogue between the two. The “I” is the spontaneous, creative
part of the self while the “Me” gradually develops through interactions with
others. The “Me” monitors the “I”. The development of both the “Me” and the “I”
is important for both the individual and society itself. Society needs
spontaneity and creativity, but within limits.

 Austrian neurologist, Sigmund Freud, developed
the psychoanalytic theory of socialization. While Cooley and Mead focused on
the influence of interactions on the development of the self, Freud placed
emphasis on how biology and the human mind shape our personality. Freud
believed that the unconscious mind shapes human behaviour. He proposed that the
human mind consists of three parts; the id, the ego and the superego. The id is
the instinctive component of the mind and is responsible for the satisfaction
of physical desires. If one was ruled only by their id, they would be following
their own personal desires and they would be breaking societal norms. The
superego can be defined as our ‘conscience’. This is the part of our psyche
that operates on moral reasoning. If one was ruled by the superego, they would
essentially be inhibited to live a normal life because of their
self-consciousness. The ego is the mediator of the id and the superego – it
balances the desires of both parts of the psyche.

 To conclude, there are several agents of
socialization. However, family, as a primary agent of socialization, is one
that I believe to play a significant role in the developing child. Not only
does family provide the bare necessities for the survival of the child, but it
also provides the child with the information that is necessary to function in
society. Our sense of self emerges from our interactions with those around us
and based on my research and analysis of the many theories of socialization, I
am of the opinion that family has the greatest influence on developing this
self-identity in the child. 



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