Describe and Assess the Evidence That Socialisation Plays a Major Part in Determining Human Behaviour.

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Socialisation refers to the process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it. The process of socialisation involves the transmission of culture from one generation to the next. It is during socialisation that individuals learn the values and norms that play such an important part in shaping human behaviour. Socialisation provides the skills and habits necessary for acting and participating within one’s society.

Charles Cooley divided socialisation into two stages – primary and secondary socialisation. Primary socialisation is the early years of our socialisation. It occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. The most important agency of primary socialisation is the family and significant others. Secondary socialisation refers to the process of learning the appropriate behaviour as a member of a smaller group within the larger society. Secondary socialisation is a never ending process. It involves a number of different agencies such as family, media, institutions, peer groups and employment.

The social psychologist G.H.Mead (The Mind, the Self and Society) made an important contribution to understanding the process of primary socialisation. He identified three different stages; the preparatory stage, the play stage and the game stage. During the preparatory stage, the child learns by imitating significant others. During this stage, simple rewards and punishments are used. In the play stage, the infant plays at being other people. According to Mead, this is a crucial stage in child development since the child learns from playing how other people think. When the child reaches the age of 7 or 8, they enter the game stage. During this stage, the child internalises the rules of the game. At this stage, the child begins to experience emotions such as guilt. Mead suggested that it was essential that children pass through these stages of socialisation by interacting with other people.

Educational institutions play a very important role in secondary socialization. In fact, as Parsons suggested schools often bridge the gap between primary and secondary socialization. During primary socialization, the child learns particularistic values but at school, children are exposed to universalistic values and they begin to form relationships with non-family members.

Marxists and feminists have identified a Hidden Curriculum that exists side by side with the formal curriculum. The Hidden Curriculum is learned but not taught. Bowles and Gintis suggests that schools are custodial institutions, the main purpose of education in capitalist societies is to transmit the values of obedience and subservience. For Marxists, schools are hierarchical institutions because pupils need to be prepared to spend their lives in hierarchical institutions. The importance of socialisation is central to the nature-nurture debate. The key question surrounds the extent to which human behaviour is shaped by biological inheritance or through the transmission of culture during the process of socialization. One of the most common methods used to illustrate the importance of socialization is to draw upon the few unfortunate cases of children who were, through neglect, misfortune, or willful abuse, not socialized by adults while they were growing up.

Remarkably, several recorded instances exist in which children have been raised without the influence of a cultural environment. In a few cases, these feral children wild or untamed children-were found living with animals. In other instances, the children were isolated in their homes by parents or family members so that no one would know of their existence. Regardless of the circumstances, these children had few human characteristics other than appearance. They had acquired no reasoning ability, no manners, and no ability to control their bodily functions or move about like other human beings. Sociological studies of feral...
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