George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development

Introduction

Socialization is the process of acquiring knowledge and skills necessary for an individual to become a member of a community. When children are born, they start undergoing primary socialization taught by people who bring them up (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2017). Although most scholars agree on the significance of providing children with their primary needs (including language, norms, and values), there are still different theories on what socialization actually is in its nature.

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According to George Herbert Mead, communication with other members of the society helps people form self-images. He characterized “self”-development in the following way (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2017):

  • It can appear only through social experience and is not determined by biological factors.
  • Exchanging symbols is the key experience in this process.
  • Children socialize when they learn how to see themselves from another perspective, i.e., as others do.
  • Self-awareness appears with understanding the role of others. This is believed to be the major step of self-development.

Similarly, Charles Horton Cooley thought that interaction was the key factor for building one’s self-image; however, he made emphasis on “a significant other,” being in the position of influence for us. Unlike Mead, Cooley believed that the notion of the looking-glass self (an image of us in the eyes of others) is more important than our perception of other people (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2017).

However, despite their different focus, both theories are a part of the symbolic interactionist paradigm since both of them suppose that society is based on interaction, which stands for the usage and exchange of symbols to create meaning.

Key Agents of Socialization

Different scholars identify a different number of key agents of socialization. The most commonly accepted classification includes (Giddens, Duneier, Appelbaum, & Carr, 2016):

  • Family. Family members are the primary caregivers that satisfy all the individual’s needs and provide patterns for observation and copying.
  • School. Educational institutions give us formalized patterns of socialization and teach widely accepted social norms.
  • Peers. This term refers to members of the community (typically with an equal status) who share certain ideas and have close relationships. Friendship helps communicate informal ideas and develop social interests.
  • Mass media. All types of mass media are aimed to provide not only education but also entertainment, socializing people through what can be listened to, read, or watched.

For me, family and peers were the most important agents of socialization (with the prevalence of family). This is explained mostly by the fact that I learn best from people whom I know well and whom I can trust completely. I am much cautious of information I receive from sources that are unknown to me personally (like mass media). As for my school, it certainly taught me all the required behavior patterns, but this type of socialization was quite formal and one-dimensional.

Feral Children

The term “feral children” refers to those who happened to be deprived of any human contact from birth or early age. This could happen if the child was abandoned by his/her parents or purposefully isolated from the outer surroundings. Such individuals do not possess any social skills or knowledge about social codes of conduct that are learned by children when they acquire primary socialization (Winston & Chicot, 2016). For instance, it is typical of feral children to be unable to speak or walk uprightly.

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Thus, feral children are actively studied by sociologists since their condition proves the significance of primary socialization. Those who were brought up by animals usually demonstrate similar traits, behaviors, and even eating habits (Winston & Chicot, 2016). This implies that human social characteristics are not inborn (as it was previously suggested), and children do need to interact with other people to socialize.

References

Giddens, A., Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R. P., & Carr, D. S. (2016). Introduction to sociology. New York, NY: WW Norton.

Ritzer, G., & Stepnisky, J. (2017). Classical sociological theory. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Winston, R., & Chicot, R. (2016). The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children. London Journal of Primary Care, 8(1), 12-14.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, March 25). George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/george-herbert-meads-and-charles-horton-cooleys-theories-of-human-development/

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"George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development." StudyCorgi, 25 Mar. 2021, studycorgi.com/george-herbert-meads-and-charles-horton-cooleys-theories-of-human-development/.

1. StudyCorgi. "George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development." March 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/george-herbert-meads-and-charles-horton-cooleys-theories-of-human-development/.


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StudyCorgi. "George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development." March 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/george-herbert-meads-and-charles-horton-cooleys-theories-of-human-development/.

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StudyCorgi. 2021. "George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development." March 25, 2021. https://studycorgi.com/george-herbert-meads-and-charles-horton-cooleys-theories-of-human-development/.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) 'George Herbert Mead’s and Charles Horton Cooley’s Theories of Human Development'. 25 March.

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