It could be argued that the goal of raising children is to produce adults who function well in society. However, a quick look at the evening news or a newspaper tells us that some children turn into productive adults who function well while others, even as children have great difficulty conforming to society's most minimal standards. Some people even as children act with aggression and hostility; for instance, researchers report in instance of two ten-year-old children recently convicted of murder (Scott, 1998). We know how to raise well-socialized children in theory. The reality, however, is that in addition to whatever innate qualities a child is born with,
As children grow up, they are exposed to a variety of environments. The first environment is within themselves: even as babies, humans possess individual traits. Some are more easy-going, and some more easily irritated. Some disorders that can negatively affect development, such as bipolar disorder, have a strong component. But in addition to the innate characteristics of the individual, a variety of other environments impact development. Family environment is of course crucial. When the child is old enough, he or she will enter the new environment of school. The child will be influenced by friends, outside activities such as music lessons, scouting, Boys and Girls Clubs, etc., and the neighborhood he or she lives in. All these environments will reflect, to a greater or lesser degree, the values of the larger societal environment of which they are a part.
For most children, these influences will be positive. Some children, however, will be raised in physically or psychologically abusive homes. Some will be raised in loving homes but live in a neighborhood where violence is common.
As the child moves through all these sometimes conflicting environment, he or she develops the qualities that result in their socialization. One of the first socialization skills a child acquires is language. Language is the way human beings communicate with each other and is the primary way adults communicate family and community standards to the child. However, children also learn important socialization skills from their family, where they acquire the skills they will use to get along with those close to them; school, where they will master their cultural framework such as history and basic skills in reading, writing and math; and their community, where they will learn the behavioral standards appropriate for the area they live in. Their community may include such things as church attendance, through which they may be given lessons on what is right and moral in addition to what they have learned from family, school and neighborhood. Sometimes those messages will be in conflict with each other. In some communities, especially ethnically-identified ones, community history may be important. Children of recent immigrants will have to be socialized both in their ethnic society and the larger society that includes many different ethnicities. Some cultures will be affected by history as well, for instance, the history and experience of Black Americans with both formal and informal racism.
The most successful adults are likely to be those who either had positive environmental experiences while growing up or who developed resilience in the face of negative experiences that allow them to overcome the negative effects. Unfortunately for some individuals, they are not exposed to environments conducive to good socialization. For instance, Ungar (2004) reports that inadequate parenting skills is the strongest predictor of behavior problems and other mental health problems in children (Ungar, 2004). While some people often quote the Bible to support such strongly punitive interventions as spankings, the research shows that using less harsh punishment results in better adjustment in the child (Ungar, 2004). In fact, parents, youth workers and foster parents can do a lot to mitigate the effects of poverty, social difficulties or academic struggles (Ungar, 2004). In Ungar's (2004) research, teens at risk for problems stated that they wanted the adults in their lives to be aware of what they were doing both at home and away from home (Ungar, 2004).
The research shows some specific factors that interfere with socialization and create an environment where children can develop aggressive tendencies or other antisocial behavior. Discipline described as over-reactive has been connected to children who develop overt, or externalizing, behavioral problems (Lorber, 2003). In one study, the children mothers who put harshly negative interpretations on neutral behaviors were more likely to act out or otherwise demonstrate poor socialization (Lorber, 2003). Other studies…