Which Social Processes Are More Important in Shaping Individual Identity: Social Structures or Culture and Socialisation?

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Individual identity could be described, as basically what any given individual perceives of them self. This perception covers everything; from personal attributes to where one stands in broader connotations such as the workplace or political groups. In sociology and psychology it is also known as self-concept (Beyers & Goossens, 2008). As much as this identity or self-concept consists of many things, it is formed and shaped by many differing things in our life. It can be broken down and examined in all its facets: cultural and ethnic identity, national and political identity, religious and collective identities, gender identity, career identity. Individual identity is the sum of the individuals’ knowledge and understanding of these facets - how they fit all the pieces together (Grotevant, 1997). This depends on what has been important to that individual; which shaping element had the most influence on them at different developmental stages in their life and how many aspects of their life were influenced. From the moment one is born one is bombarded with information - not only practical knowledge such as talking and reading but also social knowledge, enabling us to function and relate effectively and normally in society. This social information is passed to us differently than most knowledge. Most knowledge is actively taught to us; social knowledge is a combination of implicit and explicit rules moving in constant flux. We receive this information from several sources; social structures such as education systems and workplaces, culture and socialization from family and friends. When and how we receive this information is unique to each person and these social processes can be very important and powerful in shaping identity.

Social structures are what are sometimes referred to as the framework of human society. They are, in general, common to all societies in their need or function, if not in their nuances. They are our collective and initially unconscious...
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