Socialization is a process of becoming a member of a social group that accompanies a person throughout their entire life. One acquires the necessary roles, values, and standards as a result. People and institutes that facilitate the process are the agents of socialization, although some, particularly from the former group, may not realize their importance. This paper will discuss each agent and the respective role in-depth.
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Socialization logically starts in the family, where a person spends the most time during the early years. Children acquire basic cultural knowledge, acceptable behaviors, and various social skills (Laible et al. 35). The important aspects of early socialization are its quality, characterized by warmth, security, and reciprocity, and relational processes, which directly affect one’s behavior (Laible et al. 52). It is not uncommon for relatives to focus on one of those and ignore the other, but it can be detrimental to a child’s later development (Laible et al. 35). As for me, the family was responsible for developing my moral qualities and values, and while I rarely received a punishment, I knew what was right or wrong based on my parents’ reactions and words.
The second agent of socialization moving forward is school, where a person can spend a considerable amount of time if higher education is included. Education’s role in the process is to transmit society’s cultural legacy and tools, including knowledge and skills, to a new generation (Branco 31). It is done for an individual’s development and, ideally, for students to actively participate in the social landscape and shape it (Branco 31). Due to the established goals, school may seem like a conservative institute, but it is not always true (Branco 31). To successfully prepare future citizens, schools should combine traditional and progressive elements, as values may remain static, but knowledge is relatively dynamic (Branco 31). I would say that compared to my family, school as an institute was mostly responsible for developing patriotic feelings and respect for science. It was not always a pleasant experience, as a teacher’s personality could affect my interest in a subject or an idea, but it also taught me how to communicate with people in a superior position.
Once a person starts interacting with people of their age outside of the family, peer socialization begins. Its intensity and relevance depend on the developmental stage, as communication in kindergarten is vastly different from being involved with teenage peers (Bukowski et al. 263). With the former, the family’s influence is still strong, so it does not produce much effect, but in the latter case, a person finds people of the same age more relevant (Bukowski et al. 263). Thus, they acquire new values, emotions, patterns, potentially overriding those that existed formerly (Bukowski et al. 264). While a group’s influence can vary, being rejected particularly affects socialization and leads to externalized behavioral issues (Bukowski et al. 238). Out of all agents, peer groups are, perhaps, most unpredictable and dynamic (Bukowski et al. 245). One can go through many peers by changing schools, jobs, or maturing, but they can still leave a lingering impact (Bukowski et al. 245). While I cannot say that any peer group managed to make me a new person, they taught me such concepts and emotions as love, friendship, betrayal, and others.
Religion is another important socialization agent, although it may not be equally relevant for everyone. It is an important source of values, morals, and life orienteers for those who are religious (Pratt and Hardy 665). Sacred texts serve as their source and provide knowledge relevant to the community and unobtainable through other means (Rogoff et al. 483). While my family attended church on Sundays and adhered to the Ten Commandments, they were not overly religious. Regardless, I absorbed those Christian values as a child, and they are an integral part of my moral compass.
During and after school, one’s workplace, be it part-time or full-time, becomes an important agent. While starting a new job, people acquire new knowledge, roles, make new connections, and adapt to the so-called organizational culture (Ellis et al. 301). The process is important to make all employees share a common goal and a sense of belonging to the organization while providing the necessary information to make them successful (Ellis et al. 302). As one’s identity is more or less formed by working-age age, a person may choose an occupation that facilitates their existing identity (Ellis et al. 303). However, some are not so fortunate and have to do a job that conflicts with theirs, which hinders occupational socialization and adaptation (Ellis et al. 303). I have limited experience working part-time, and my organization taught me nothing except discipline, but in the future, a full-time job will surely influence me.
In conclusion, agents of socialization accompany a person throughout their life and help one acquire the values, skills, roles, and knowledge necessary to exist within a social group. The process starts in the family, which provides the foundation, and continues in school and at work while being surrounded by peers, who either facilitate or complicate socialization. Religion can also be an important agent, even if a person is not very religious. In the end, all of them leave their trace and make someone both a unique personality and a member of society.
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Branco, Angela Uchoa. “Values, Education and Human Development: The Major Role of Social Interactions’ Quality Within Classroom Cultural Contexts.” Alterity, Values, and Socialization: Human Development Within Educational Contexts, edited by Angela Uchoa Branco and Maria Cláudia Lopes-de-Oliveira, Springer International Publishing, 2018, pp. 31-50.
Bukowski, William M., et al. “Socialization and Experiences with Peers.” Grusec and Hastings, pp. 228-250.
Grusec, Joan E., and Paul D. Hastings, editors. Handbook of Socialization: Theory and Research. New York, The Guilford Press, 2015.
Laible, Deborah, et al. “Early Socialization: The Influence of Close Relationships.” Grusec and Hastings, pp. 35-59.
Pratt, Michael W., and Sam A. Hardy. “Cultivating the Moral Personality: Socialization in the Family and Beyond.” Grusec and Hastings, pp. 661-687.
Rogoff, Barbara, et al. “Children Develop Cultural Repertoires through Engaging in Everyday Routines and Practices.” Grusec and Hastings, pp. 472-498.