Agents of socialization

WJEC - Revision Book

  • Created by: Anna
  • Created on: 05-05-12 23:12


  • This means the values, norms, beliefs and customs of any society
  • It is a word that describes a way of life
  • sociologists are interested in culture because it separates humans form wild creatures; in short cultures makes us human 
  • Humans need to learn how to behave, they are not born knowing how to walk, how to eat, how to use a toilet or how to speak.
  • These skills are learned but the precise nature of the skills can vary from one society to another 
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Cultural diversity

  • Means difference, numerous different cultures around the world
  • Cultural identity an d difference demonstrated through language clothing and symbols such as flags and national dress most evident in international events like Olympics 
  • Some cultures have different values and norms 
  • Margret Mead found that women shave their heads and wear no jewelry while men wear ornament and cur their hairs in New Guinea
  • Culture is therefore said to be socially constructed, made by society and passed on form one generation to another through the process of socialisation.
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  • In Multi-cultural Britain there are many examples of subcultures with their own particular values and norms that give them a distinctive character.
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  • Refers to the process of learning the culture of any given society
  • When an individual has not learned the norms and values of the society in which they live, they are often referred to as unsocialised
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Why is socialisation important?

  • Functionalists regard the process of socialisation as  an essential part of the establishment of social order and social equilibrium.
  • They maintain that socialisation is vital for the well-being of individuals and for society as a whole because it enables people to 'fit in'. 
  • Marxists claim that the ruling class control socialisation and pass on their norms and values, which enables them to control the subject class, which Althusser calls ideological control
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Feral children

  • Un-socialised children are usually referred to as feral children
  • Although not very common there are famous examples which highlight the importance of socialisation for humans
  • Horst the 'puppy boy' had been left in the care of his pet Alsatian by his parents while they went out drinking-  he eventually began to pick up the behavior of the dog 
  • Another famous example is Genie who had been isolated from society for 11 years by her father and thus failed to learn basic human functioning form how to walk to how to use the toilet.
  • It is thus clear that the early years of a child's life are very significant in the acquisition of culture. 
  • In these early years children learn, through socialisation, how to fit into the society into which they are born, in short, they learn how to be human
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Primary Socialisation

  • Primary socialisation is the first stage in the process of learning about culture.
  • It occurs in the early years of life through contact with family members, carers and other children.
  • It can also include contact with the median or media products
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Secondary Socialisation

  • This is the second stage of the socialisation process, which occurs after the period of early childhood and continues throughout life
  • It involves contact with a number of different institutions and individuals such as schools, work, peer group and the media
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Agents of Socialisation

  • This is the name given to the institutions involved in transmitting the norms and values of society through the process of socialisation; for example, family, schools, work, peers, the media and religion
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The Role of the Family in Socialisation

  • In the early years children learn norms, values and rules for living as well as how they expected to behave as males and females
  • This can vary according too social class, ethnicity, religion and locale however how it is learnt tends to be similar
  • families use sanctions which are reactions to behavior that can either encourage or discourage behavior 
  • positive sanctions usually involve praise while negative sanctions usually involves punishment
  • Ann Oakley claimed that children learn gender roles within the family through Canalisation and Manipulation
  • Canalisation is the channeling of a child's activities in relation to their gender i.e. playing with dolls 
  • Manipulation is persuading a child to think about themselves in particular ways in relation to their gender i.e. paying attention to a girl's hair
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The Role of Education in the Process of Socialisat

  • Schools are one of the agents of secondary socialisation and they employ both informal and formal ways of controlling behavior and transmitting society's norms and values
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The Formal Curriculum

  • This includes the subjects taught in schools and the content of lessons.
  • The formal curriculum is controlled up to key stage 4 by the national curriculum decided by the government and it includes knowledge 
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Formal social control

  • Schools can control children formally through written school rules
  • When these rules are broken, formal sanctions are employed to discourage a repeat of the behavior, such as report cards, letters home or detention.
  • Praise is another sanction designed to encourage a repeat of the behavior and this can take the form of praise assemblies, merit marks and special privileges
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The Informal Curriculum

  • Plays a significant role in the socialisation of pupils
  • Pupils absorb norms and values without realising they are doing so
  • Imitate adult role models e.g. teachers or older pupils and learn important messages about expected behaviour and learn important messages about expected behaviour and about gender by watching how males and females behave
  • Sue Lee - many girls experienced stereotypical socialisation that influenced their future expectations
  • Abraham- concluded that in maths textbooks males were likely to be represented in active roles whilst women were often portrayed buying food or using washing machines
  • Through subliminal socialisation and role modelling that males and females may establish part of their gender identity
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Informal Social Control

  • Behaviour can be controlled informally through the demonstration of disappointment, pleasure and even facial expressions. teachers and fellow student are involved in this process
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  • Media is increasingly becoming a significant influence in secondary socialisation
  • The way in which people are socialised by the media is more focused on role models and imitation than on imposing sanctions
  • Content analysis reveals persistently stereotypical images and messages, and this has been particularly true of those associated with gender
  • Marjorie Fergusonclaims that women's magazines convey a 'cult of femininity'
  • Ruthenford suggest that male identity is changing
  • There has been an increased interest in Male cosmetics and toiletries, which, according to Ruthenfordis because of targeted media advertising and role modelling
  • Media has also been linked with juvenile crime and 'copycat violence' with the suggestion that individuals watch and then imitate what they see.
  • Social networking sites have opened up new ways for the media to  influence and shape people's everyday lives
  • Media can be a source of information about gender, style, knowledge and identity, and through imitation individuals are socialised into the norms and values of the society in which they live.
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Peer Groups

  • Peer groups are made up of peple of similar ages who might be friends
  • Young people spend a great deal of time together in school and, because of this, friendship groups or peers can play an important part in the socialisation process
  • Peer influence is usually done throug peer pressure e.g. persuading somenone to dress or behave in a particular way.
  • We individuals fail to conform, they are sometimes rejected and left feeling isolated
  • This is an example of informal social control, which often causes people to conform rather than suffer  this rejection
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  • UK often described as a secular society
  • Although religion does often play a part in the socialisation process for many people
  • Written rules encourage people to follow specific moral codes that are reflected in the norms of particular religions
  • Religion is often closely linked to family background and so the sanctions imposed to encourage particular behaviours are often the same as those found in families.
  • However, there are also formal sanctions that religious leaders are able to impose on those who break religious norms.
  • E.g. in catholic religion divorce is not recognised and anyone who has been divorced can not receive Holy Communion
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  • Workers will need to learn the norms of their particular workplace in order to fit in
  • Re-socialisation is when individuals learn new norms and values associated with the particular job and workplace
  • Training or induction programmes are often organised to enable new employees to learn the formal rules of the workplace and about the sanctions that can be imposed when the rules are broken.
  • Thesesanctions can include informal or written warnings or even suspension form work.
  • Workers are likely to pick up informal rules, such as dress code, where to eat and who to talk to, from other work colleagues
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