Socialization prepares people for social life by teaching them a group’s shared norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors.
The role of socialization is to acquaint individuals with the norms of a given social group or society. It prepares individuals to participate in a group by illustrating the expectations of that group.
Socialization is very important for children, who begin the process at home with family, and continue it at school. They are taught what will be expected of them as they mature and become full members of society. Socialization is also important for adults who join new social groups. Broadly defined, it is the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members.
In his 1995 paper, “Broad and Narrow Socialization: The Family in the Context of a Cultural Theory,” sociologist Jeffrey J. Arnett outlined his interpretation of the three primary goals of socialization. First, socialization teaches impulse control and helps individuals develop a conscience. This first goal is accomplished naturally: as people grow up within a particular society, they pick up on the expectations of those around them and internalize these expectations to moderate their impulses and develop a conscience. Second, socialization teaches individuals how to prepare for and perform certain social roles—occupational roles, gender roles, and the roles of institutions such as marriage and parenthood. Gender socialization, for example, is the process by which the cultural norms of femininity or masculinity are learned. Third, socialization cultivates shared sources of meaning and value. Through socialization, people learn to identify what is important and valued within a particular culture.
The term “socialization” refers to a general process, but socialization always takes place in specific contexts. Socialization is culturally specific: people in different cultures are socialized differently, to hold different beliefs and values, and to behave in different ways. Sociologists try to understand socialization, but they do not rank different schemes of socialization as good or bad; they study practices of socialization to determine why people behave the way that they do.
Social deprivation, or prevention from culturally normal interaction with society, affects mental health and impairs child development.
Humans are social beings, and social interaction is essential to normal human development. Social deprivation occurs when an individual is deprived of culturally normal interaction with the rest of society. Certain groups of people are more likely to experience social deprivation. For example, social deprivation often occurs along with a broad network of correlated factors that all contribute to social exclusion; these factors include mental illness, poverty, poor education, and low socioeconomic status.
By observing and interviewing victims of social deprivation, research has provided an understanding of how social deprivation is linked to human development and mental illness. As they develop, humans pass through critical periods, or windows of time during which they need to experience particular environmental stimuli in order to develop properly. But when individuals experience social deprivation, they miss those critical periods. Thus, social deprivation may delay or hinder development, especially for children.
Feral children provide an example of the effects of severe social deprivation during critical developmental periods. Feral children are children who grow up without social interaction. In some cases, they may have been abandoned early in childhood and grown up in the wilderness. In other cases, they may have been abused by parents who kept them isolated from other people. In several recorded cases, feral children failed to develop language skills, had only limited social understanding, and could not be rehabilitated.
Attachment theory may explain why social deprivation has such dire effects for children. According to attachment theory, an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally.
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• Socialization prepares people to participate in a social group by teaching them its norms and expectations.
• Socialization has three primary goals: teaching impulse control and developing a conscience, preparing people to perform certain social roles, and cultivating shared sources of meaning and value.
• Socialization is culturally specific, but this does not mean certain cultures are better or worse than others.
• As they develop, humans go through several critical periods, or windows of time during which they need to experience particular environmental stimuli in order to develop properly.
• Feral children provide an example of the effects of severe social deprivation during critical developmental periods.
• Attachment theory argues that infants must develop stable, on-going relationships with at least one adult caregiver in order to form a basis for successful development.
• The term maternal deprivation is a catch phrase summarizing the early work of psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby on the effects of separating infants and young children from their mother.
• In United States law, the “tender years” doctrine was long applied when custody of infants and toddlers was preferentially given to mothers.
socialization: the process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it
gender socialization: the specific process of learning the cultural norms associated with gender roles
Jeffrey J. Arnett: in his 1995 paper, “Broad and Narrow Socialization: The Family in the Context of a Cultural Theory,” sociologist Jeffrey J. Arnett outlined his interpretation of the three primary goals of socialization
norm: a rule that is enforced by members of a community
feral children: a feral child is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and, crucially, of human language
attachment Theory: attachment theory describes the dynamics of long-term relationships between humans. Its most important tenet is that an infant needs to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for social and emotional development to occur normally
social deprivation: in instances of social deprivation, particularly for children, social experiences tend to be less varied and development may be delayed or hindered