Chapter Three and Nine
Socialization and Sex and Gender
What purpose does socialization serve?
What happens when children do not have an environment that supports positive socialization? How does socialization occur?
Why is Socialization Important?
Socialization is the lifelong process of social interaction through which individuals acquire a self-identity and the physical, mental, and social skills needed for survival in society. Socialization is essential of the individual’s survival and for human development. The many people who met the early material and social needs of each of us were central to our establishing our own identity.
Socialization is also essential for the survival and stability of society. Members must be socialized to support and maintain the existing social structure.
Human Development: Biology and Society (Nature or Nurture)
What does it mean to be “human”? To be human includes being conscious of ourselves as individuals with unique identities, personalities and relationships with others. As humans we have ideas, emotions and values. We have the capacity to think and make rational decisions. But what is the source of “human-ness”? Are we born with these human characteristics, or do we develop them through our interactions with others?
Every human being is a product of biology and society and personal experiences – that is, of heredity and environment or, in even more basic terms “nature” and “nurture.” How much of our development can be explained by socialization? How much by our genetic heritage? There is hardly a behaviour that is not influenced socially. Social environment probably has a greater effect than heredity on the way we develop and the way we act. However, heredity does provide the basic material from which other people mould an individual’s human experiences.
Our biological and emotional needs are related in a complex equation. Children whose needs are met in settings characterized by affection, warmth, and closeness see the world as a safe and comfortable place and other people as trustworthy and helpful. By contrast, infants and children who receive less-than-adequate care or who are emotionally rejected or abused often view the world as hostile and have pervasive feelings of suspicion and fear.
Social Isolation and Maltreatment:
Social environment then, is a crucial part of an individual’s socialization. Even, nonhuman primates such as monkeys and chimpanzees need social contact with others to develop properly.
Isolation and Nonhuman Primates
Researchers have attempted to demonstrate the effects of social isolation on nonhuman primates raised without contact with others of their own species. In a series of laboratory experiments, Harry and Margaret Harlow took infant rhesus monkeys from their mothers and isolated them in separate cages. Each cage contained two non-living “mother substitutes” made of wire, one with a feeding bottle attached and the other covered with soft terry cloth but without a bottle. The infant monkeys instinctively clung to the “cloth mother” and would not abandon it until hunger drove them to the bottle attached to the “wire mother.” As soon as they were full, they would go back to the cloth mother, seeking warmth, affection, and physical comfort.
The Harlows’ experiments show the harmful effects of isolation on nonhuman primates. When the young monkeys were later introduced to other members of their species, they cringed in the corner. Having been deprived of social contact with other monkeys during their first six months of life, they never learned how to relate to other monkeys or to become well adjusted adult monkeys – they were either fearful of or hostile toward other monkeys.
Because humans rely more heavily on social learning than do monkeys, the process of socialization is even more important to us.
Social scientists have documented cases of children who were deliberately raised in...
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