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Socialization by the Book And the Bed
Sociologists define socialization as "the process by which, through contact with other human beings, one becomes a self-aware, knowledgeable human being, skilled in the ways of a given culture and environment." (Giddens, Duneier, & Appelbaum) There are many ways in which we socialization occurs. Interaction with parents, family, neighbors and community members, teachers and fellow students, and religious leaders all contribute to socialization. Other contributors may include cultural influences such as TV and other media, the influence of a child's native language, religious mores, and various racial, ethnic, or gender messages that arrive from various sources. While psychologists often focus on the influence of early life experiences (such as the relationship between the mother and the infant during breast-feeding and weaning) in socialization, many sociologists tend to focus on broader family and cultural issues.
Certainly for many people, especially those who attend daycare and public schools from a very early age, peers and educators may be the primary forces in their socialization. However, in most traditional families, and particularly in mine, the biggest sociological influence is indeed the family. In cases where the family is actively involved in the education of their children, their ability to control the socialization of their kids is further increased; this is both generally true and specifically obvious in my own experience of forming my personal identity.
Sociologists speak of a variety of levels of socialization. The earliest "primary" socialization almost always takes place within the family, and is the "most intense period of cultural learning." (Giddens, Duneier, & Appelbaum) One supposes this means that every person raised in a family could argue that their family had the biggest influence on their personal identity formation. However, I would argue that in my case this influence was particularly strong. Sociologists speak of a "secondary" socialization that proceeds later in childhood when the main agents of socialization are schools, peer groups, and other influences such as organizations and the media. Secondary socialization is where students learn what society expects in a social life. Schools where children interact with peer groups have more objective social relationships for children than do families, "The peer group exerts a most powerful social influence on the child. The peer group is composed of status equals... A child must earn his/her social position within the peer group; this position does not come naturally, as it does in the family. Interaction with a peer group loosens the child's bonds to the family; it provides both an alternative model for behavior and new social norms and values." (Kasper)
In my case, I remained home for much longer than most children, as I was home schooled for a period. My parents provided me with a family and an education, but in the process much of the time I would have spent in secondary socialization at school was instead spent being further socialized by my family.
My case proves that though socialization may generally occur in one fashion (moving from home to school as the child reaches the preschool or at least first grade ages), a person can still develop in other ways and be socialized and healthy. It is possible to learn about society by observing how parents and siblings interact with others outside the family, in addition to discovering it through intensive peer relationships. Of course, I was not totally isolated from secondary sources of civilization, and the experience of peer groups did eventually come into my life. There was some degree to which my awareness of how to navigate social situations was slightly retarded by being raised mainly among adults, but in many ways it was not that I was generally unable to relate to society, but simply that I tended to relate in a more mature fashion than many of my peers. While many sociologists are very invested in the importance of school and culture in the foundation of personal identity, there are some who suggest that children will in fact be better socialized if their naked immersion in school or culture is delayed as long as possible, and replaced by socialization through the family.
According to Dr. Raymond Moore, this evidence has been collected by many researchers from such prestigious schools as Cornell and Stanford, "Bronfenbrenner who found that at least up to the sixth grade, children who spend less of their elective time with their parents than their peers tend to become peer-dependent;... Bandura who noted that this tendency has in recent years moved down to preschool... little children are not best socialized by other kids; the more persons around them, the fewer meaningful contacts." (Moore)
Children have a tendency to become dependent to some degree on those who socialize them, so that if children are primarily socialized in schools they become peer-dependent and "The early peer influence generally brings an indifference to family values which defy parent's correction. The child does no[t] yet consistently understand the 'why' of parental demands when his peers replace his parents as his models... Research shows that such peer dependency brings loss of (1) self-worth, (2) optimism, (3) respect for parents and (4) trust in peers." (Moore) Since none of the children have been fully inculcated into public cultural values, they do not have the social background with which to truly "socialize" one another -- instead of transmitting cultural values they may tend to instead adapt to school culture and be finally unable to relate to the external culture. This is something which I, like many home-schooled children, did not experience.
My family and the education they provided me was socializing in a number of ways, some of them very standard and others more particular. For example, as with many children, a great part of my identity was formed in the relationships between my parents and my siblings. I came to see myself in roles as someone who questioned and at times rebelled, and yet always stood by my family and came through when I was needed. Being socialized so thoroughly at home I learned how to come into conflict with social authority in a way that was not destructive, and being dependent on my family I also learned naturally how and when to compromise both by observing it in my parents and in needing to compromise in order to retain the social respect of family members. As other children learn how to give into peer pressure in schools, I learned how to respect family values and pressure at home. My family's particular religious and social expectations and beliefs became very engrained in me, to a point that even when I tried to oppose them occasionally I inevitably did so from a starting point based in their own values. (For example, I might argue for or against a particularly conservative legal ruling, but do so from an anti-big-government essentially conservative standpoint, rather than from a liberal standpoint) Being socialized so strongly by the family assured that the socialization was "true" in the sense that it accurately reproduced in me the basic ways and views of my home environment and my parent's culture.
In conclusion, socialization according to "the book" (of recognized psychology/sociology, that is) is generally conceived as being primarily developed through a child's interaction with ever-broadening spheres of public influence from a very young age. The child learns how to react intimately and personally within the family home, and then learns how to interact socially within the school environment, while being inculcated into cultural values through the media, religious or cultural institutions with which they are involved, and finally into economic standards through involvement with the workplace. However, in what I would call the "bedside" fashion of socialization, it is possible for the family and the education they provide to be far more prominent. In this model,…[continue]
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