Socialization is an integral part of the process every human being, regardless of gender, culture or geographical location, goes through from childhood through adulthood. It is a never-ending process. But it is especially important during the formative years of a person’s life. In brief, socialization can be described as the process by which an individual acquires his or her own personal identity. He or she learns the values, norms, social behavioral patterns and social skills needed to integrate in and become a functioning member of their particular society.
What are The Major Agents of Socialization?
From this simplified definition it can be seen that any attempt to define a set of factors or agents that contribute to the socialization process must differ from culture to culture. However, despite the differences inherent in unique cultures, a number of socialization factors are common to all cultures or have a similar equivalent.
In Western industrial societies, by way of example, it is generally accepted that their are four central agents of socialization. Some researchers claim that there are actually 10 primary socialization agents. The proponents of the four agent model hold that the additional agents are but subsets of the four main socialization agents.
Family: The Primary Social Group That Teaches Socialization
The family is the first social group that one comes into contact with and from which the individual learns the basic values of living in a family orientated society. Within this grouping many vital social lessons and skills are learned that are essential if the individual is to develop and find a place in society. These include language skills, physical control of one’s body, recognition and control of emotions, accepted behavioral patterns both in the home and the outside environment, and moral and ethical values.
Additional skills and lessons learned in the family include the ability to bond with and empathize with others, building the individual’s picture of “I” which includes self-esteem, character, identity and emotional health, gender roles and ethnic and religious preferences.
These agents, along with others, are the basic building blocks for an individual’s life. The skills and lessons learned and developed during a child’s formative years will be those that enable him or her to grow and develop as an adult. They provide the abilities to build relationships outside of the family, to become a productive member of society and ultimately to fulfill a role in continuing the species by forming and starting their own family unit.
Mass Media: The Second Group That Teaches Socialization
The second major element of socialization is the mass media. This is comprised of television, the Internet, radio, music, movies, books, magazines and newspapers. In Western society, the age at which children are first exposed to mass media, usually in the form of television, is constantly getting younger. Today infants of only a few months of age may well be placed in front of the television. The television may serve as a “baby sitter” for busy parents. Some research shows that in many respects, the mass media, and in particular television and movies, present a serious challenge to the authority of the parents. These elements in today’s culture often contain messages that contradict the values of the parents.
Peer Groups: The Third Group That Teaches Socialization
The third area of socialization are peer groups. These are those people of a similar age or with some other shared characteristic, such as sports preference, place of work, musical taste and so forth. As the child progresses through life, the influence of peer groups grows. Peer group influence reaches its peak during a child’s teenage years. Peer group influence on adults is much weaker.
School: The Fourth Group That Teaches Socialization
School is the fourth major element of socialization. In school,...