Socialization: Social Control vs. Self-Actualization
Socialization is a sociological approach that attempts to explain how people learn cultural morals and the responses and emotions that differentiate us from animals that are driven merely by the drive to survive and reproduce.
Socialization starts from the assumption that humans are more than animals that do whatever it takes to survive. Instead humans recognize that they are part of a group, and they observe other humans for guiding cues on how they should respond. When a baby is born it observes its mother to learn how emotions work and what the proper response to different events should be. Gradually as the child learns that it is a separate being from its mother and other humans it learns to think about its own reactions and responses and how they differ from those of other people. In this stage the child may deliberately test things out by trying a different response than the one approved by other people. Eventually, the child settles into a pattern of being able to regulate their own responses and empathize with what others want and how they respond. In this way socialization is a careful dance in which the developing human learns to balance their own independent desires and responses with those of the people around them.
George Herbet Mead
Mead contributed to the concept of socialization by exploring how significant other people around a person affect that person. He showed socialization as a dialectical, or reasoning, process in which the human may have to decide between their own personal desires and those of the group around them. Mead also contributed greatly to the method of studying socialization by showing that verbal communication isn’t the only way people socialize each other. Instead nonverbal, symbolic communication is even more important.
Mead’s work in showing the importance of nonverbal, symbolic communication has tremendous application for sociologists and psychologists. Also once a person is conscience of the nonverbal communication that people use they are able to notice a lot of things that other people don’t. This can lead to them being better managers, leaders, etc.
Cooley contributed to the concept of socialization by developing the “looking glass self” theory. This theory explains socialization as a reflection process in which a person develops a self-image that is constructed based on how other people view him/her. In this way a person is socialized by trying to adjust their self-image.
Cooley’s work was probably the basis for labeling theory. It helps explain why in some cases people develop a negative self image that causes them to become worse, not better. Some people can’t reconcile their self-image with the desired self-image and once they label themselves as criminals, or drug users, etc they find it even harder to leave those patterns. The “looking glass self” theory could be used to help rehabilitate convicted felons and criminals by developing a better socialization process for such ones.
Bowlby contributed greatly to the concept of socialization by exploring the manner in which children learn from their mothers. He described the early stages of socialization by analyzing the way mothers and babies communicated symbolically with eye dilations and facial expressions. The mother uses this symbolic communication to teach her child how to respond to threats and stresses by showing the emotion that the baby should and does imitate.
Bowlby’s work has practical application in showing why children should spend as much time as possible with their mothers or with a mother figure during their early years. It explains why orphaned babies often don’t do as well emotionally if they don’t have someone to pick them up and teach them these responses through interaction. Bowlby’s work is also important because it suggests that single parent families where the mother must...
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Yeung, King-To, and Martin, John Levi
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Jul 9, 2009 Nicholas Morine
From Charles Horton Cooley, Human Nature and the SocialOrder. New York: Scribner 's, 1902, pp. 179-185.
From Coser, 1977:305-307.
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