Socialization and the family are two notions without which human life is practically unimaginable. In general, socialization means the learning process and how people acquire those beliefs, attitudes, values and, certainly, behavior that finally become their way of thinking. In other words, it is the way in which the society transmits its culture from one generation to another. A human being is a social creature and a person is socialized from the moment he/she is born and his/her first social group is the family. The development of a personality out of the society is impossible because those who live or grow up in the isolation from the society has many problems and very often they can’t lead a normal life.
So, it is evident that socialization begins from the very birth and continues even in the adult period of our life, consequently, this process is inevitable and necessary for every member of any social group. The first experiences of socialization people receive in their family. Through communication with parents, siblings and closest relatives, who are primary agents of socialization and through the adaptation to the norms and demands of this group of people, are socialized. Thus, socialization is an essential and complicated process the analysis of which poses a lot of questions that a researcher had to answer. What I am going to focus on is as follows: what impact has it got on a personality (i.e. is it always positive); what is the role of the family in this process; and, finally, are all people socialized in the same way or not.
Firstly, I want to start with the impact of socialization on a personality. Socialization is highly effective in the early childhood because children are very receptive to learning and a person is mainly influenced by parents (family) or peers (school). We acquire first social experience from parents and siblings. At this period of time, particularly first years of life, the authority of parents is held in the highest esteem. Then, when a person grows, he/she demands more social contacts and this process is inevitable because it is impossible to isolate a child from the rest of the society. These demands are amply satisfied by school but I want to underline a dualistic character of the socialization in peer groups which is considered to be either positive or negative. Some researchers even estimate that home schooling is more preferable because it prevents children from possible negative experience.
Anyway the majority of children go to school and their peers, and partially school staff, play more and more important role for them. Consequently, the question of usefulness of such influence arises. On the one hand, it is positive because children learn how to live in a new surrounding, they acquire new social experience and they learn how to function in a new social group. But some researchers indicate that it has not only positive but negative effect as well. Moreover, they state that home schooling is more preferable than traditional schools. As for me I can’t fully agree with them but still they have some reasons. First of all, when children are in a peer group, especially adolescents, they risk becoming peer-dependent because at this age the family is not so important for them as their peer group. By the way, it also seems to me a negative fact that a person associates him-/herself with one separate group of the society because, firstly, a person loses his/her identity, and, secondly, those who are out of the group are usually treated as outcasts that deteriorates their social status and their self-esteem. Moreover, recent studies of Urie Bronfenbrenner show that to the 6th grade children who spent more time with peers rather than with parents become peer-dependant while Albert Bandura estimates that this tendency may be observed even in the preschool period. But anyway, school remains one of the most important primary agents of socialization.
However, to be more objective we have to analyze the situation in the family. For example, Eleanor Maccoby and John Martin say quite opposite to what has just been mentioned above. So, on the contrary, they believe that either parent has a different influence on children’s socialization or they do not influence it greatly at all. They make such a conclusion of their research: “These findings imply strongly that there is very little impact of the physical environment that parents provide for their children and very little impact of parental characteristics that must be essentially the same for all children in a family… Indeed, the implications are either that parental behaviors have no effect or that the only effective aspects of parenting must vary greatly from one child to another within the same family.” (Maccoby and Martin, 1983, p.82). There are a number of reasons proving their point of view.
One of the reasons is that, traditionally, children were considered to imitate mainly their parents but some researchers, including D.C. Rowe, think that children, due to their high receptiveness, can learn from any source. It could be other adults or peers as well. Then, the language, being one of the principle markers of socialization, reveals that children from bilingual or bicultural families learn and use very well the local language while within the family they may still use the language of their community. This fact shows that children are socialized independently in a new community different from that of their native parental one. Also the attitude of parents or one parent to their children may differ, for example, researches show that the majority of mothers love one child more than another and usually it is a younger child in the family. I think it also influences the socialization of children. It also proves a dualistic character of socialization and it is still impossible to say for sure what is more important or what had more serious influence the family or peer groups.
Finally, there is one more very important thing that influences a person’s socialization. It is the social status of the family. It is not a secret that socialization of people of upper and lower classes differs. If in upper classes family children have more attention from the part of the family. Such families are characterized by close and democratic relations. On the contrary, lower class families are more authoritarian (especially families of Asian and Latin American origins), children don’t have enough communication with their parents, who, in their turn, rely mainly on school in the process of socialization and rearing of their children.
Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, I come to the conclusion that the process of socialization is quite a complicated phenomenon it has several stages and is influenced by different factors. What I can say for sure is that the family plays a very important role in this process, particularly at the beginning of a person’s life, when people become more family-independent, peer oriented and influenced in adolescence. Also we should remember that socialization is the process which lasts all our life because people change their environment permanently. But I want to emphasize that person’s basic ideas and values are formed in childhood and are rarely seriously changed in adulthood. It is noteworthy that socialization is not always positive but it may be negative as well and it depends not only on situation in the family but also on its social position, cultural and educational level, and surrounding of a person.
1.Maccoby E.E., Martin J.A. (1983). Socialization in the Context of the Family: Parent-child Interaction. In P.H. Mussen (series ed.) and E.M. Hetherington (vol. ed.), Handbook of Child Psychology: Vol. 4. Socialization, Personality and Social Development. (4th ed.). New York: Wiley.
2.Moore, R. (2002). Socialization. New York: Moore Foundation.
3.Rowe, D.C. (1994) The Limits of Family Influence: Genes, Experience, and Behavior. New York: Guilford Press.