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Socialization Theories by Mead, Cooley, Piget


Socialization is a powerful process through which human beings learn the behaviors, cultural aspects, and ways associated with their respective societies. The complexity of the process explains why it is influenced by the surrounding environment, parents, relatives, strangers, and media outlets. It is agreeable that George Herbert Mead and Charles Horton Cooley offer meaningful concepts of socialization. However, my position on the topic is that Jean Piaget presents the best model to explain how children process their thoughts, interpret the world around them, benefit from their surrounding environment, and develop their cognitive abilities. Consequently, Jean Piaget’s model has been admired and applied in both the academic and medical fields. This paper begins by comparing the concepts presented by Charles Cooley, George Herbert Mead, and Jean Piaget. This discussion goes further to explain why Jean Piaget is the theorist who gives us the most.

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Comparing Different Concepts of Socialization

Charles Horton Cooley developed a famous socialization concept known as looking-glass self (Downey, 2015). According to the theory, individuals gain a powerful impression of how they should view themselves whenever interacting with others. The scholar argues that people imagine how they look or appear to their neighbors. This knowledge informs them about how others think about them (Downey, 2015). This understanding eventually results in feelings such as embarrassment and pride. The theorist indicates that the process is crucial during early childhood and adolescence. He gives a powerful example to support the argument. He indicates that cheering can empower children to do better in sports. Cooley indicates that looking-glass self is fully developed towards the end of adolescence (Downey, 2015). However, the process continues throughout a person’s life. Consequently, the theorist indicates that people’s self will change as they continue to socialize with workmates, supervisors, and friends.

On the other hand, George Herbert Mead’s concept of socialization differs significantly since it is focuses on the idea of role modeling. Children, according to Mead, take the roles of others in an attempt to learn new ideas. For example, children might emulate their parents’ behaviors or actions. Young children will also monitor the roles of different individuals, such as parents and siblings. These are the people they interact with the most (Downey, 2015). The first stage is called “imitation” and occurs between 1 and 3 years, while the play phase takes place from 4 to 6 years (Huebner, 2016). The next period is the stage of the game and occurs from the 6th year. Such processes make it easier for young children to understand what society expects from them. The theorist believes that the self is composed of these two parts: I and me. Such parts tend to complement each other, thereby making it easier for individuals to contribute a lot to their societies. The “me” refers to the process whereby the self conforms to the expectations of an individual’s society (Huebner, 2016). The “I” is the spontaneous or creative part of the self. The development of the “me” and “I” aspects of the self is something important for the society and the individual.

The third theorist who presents a detailed analysis of socialization and development is Jean Piaget. According to his cognitive development model, children are born with a unique personality and a self (Carey, Zaitchik, & Bascandziev, 2015). This means that the theorist went a step further to study how humans acquire cognitive development. He came up with four unique stages that dictated human socialization and cognitive development. The first stage is known as the sensorimotor, whereby children use their senses and hearing to learn more about the surrounding world. This is followed by the preoperational phase that occurs between 2 and 7 years.

During this period, children start to use objects, words, and symbols. They also learn how to develop simple concepts or ideas. The third stage is called the concrete operational phase. It occurs between 7 and 12 years. During the stage, children think in accordance with a principle known as “cause and effect.” However, they cannot understand attributes such as justice, equality, or fairness (Carey et al., 2015). Formal operational is the last phase and begins for 12 years. Children in this stage can address most of the issues affecting them and think in an abstract manner. Additionally, Piaget indicates that proper maturation and efficient socialization can be used to support a child’s cognitive development.

From this comparative analysis, it is quite clear that the process of socialization is quite complex and might take place differently from person A to B. Although these three theorists offer meaningful ideas and concepts to describe the process of socialization, it would be agreeable that Jean Piaget’s theory is plausible and informative. This is the case because the scholar offers four unique stages to explain how cognitive development takes place. After numerous studies, researchers have acknowledged that many children will begin to form abstract ideas and use diverse principles to address their problems from the age of 12 years (Carey et al., 2015).

This argument has, therefore, been used to support the fact that Piaget’s cognitive development is a powerful theory that resonates with the process of human socialization (Carey et al., 2015). The scholar goes further to present meaningful ideas that are missed by the other two theorists. For example, Piaget indicates that brain activity is something that develops swiftly. That being the case, the social environments or conditions experienced by a given child will enhance (or inhibit) this kind of development. He gives the example of children whose guardians or parents read and play with them (Carey et al., 2015). Such children will tend to record desirable cognitive and neurological development processes. Social isolation, on the other hand, will be disastrous for a child’s cognitive development.

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It is agreeable that George Herbert Mead and Charles Horton Cooley offer meaningful concepts that can be used to describe and study how socialization in human beings takes place. However, Jean Piaget goes a step further to offer a powerful model that explains how children process their thoughts, interpret the world around them, benefit from their surrounding environments, and develop their cognitive abilities. These aspects explain why Piaget’s theory has been applied in different fields such as medicine and education. Consequently, many scholars and researchers have been influenced by the ideas associated with the theorist’s cognitive development concept. Additionally, Piaget acknowledges that appropriate social support is something critical since it supports every socialization process. People should also combine the above concepts to have a clear understanding of how socialization takes place in human beings. This knowledge can ensure that more people embrace Jean Piaget’s cognitive development model and modify it to support the socialization needs of their children. These concepts will empower more parents and teachers to support the socialization and learning processes of more children.


Carey, S., Zaitchik, D., & Bascandziev, I. (2015). Theories of development: In dialog with Jean Piaget. Developmental Review, 38, 36-54. Web.

Downey, B. (2015). The looking glass self and deliberation bias in qualitative interviews. Sociological Spectrum, 35(6), 534-551. Web.

Huebner, D. R. (2016). History and social process: Reflections on Mead’s approach to history. European Journal of Pragmatism and American Philosophy, 8(2), 1-21. Web.

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