Socialisation is defined as “the process whereby the helpless human infant gradually becomes a self-aware, knowledgeable person, skilled in the ways of the culture into which he or she was born”. (Giddens, 284). Everybody, man, woman and child goes through the process of socialisation throughout the whole duration of their life not just when an infant. Socialisation or as anthropologists refer to it, enculturation does not end once the child becomes a teenager for example. The process is on-going throughout ones lifespan. Socialisation is most important however when the child is a new-born till the age of three as this is when a child’s brain develops the most. This is why love, emotional support and interaction with their immediate family and friends is important for the child’s future development. “The process of socialisation involves learning the language, values, rules and knowledge of the culture into which we are born” (McDonald, 12). One tends to follow and have a similar personality to those who they are close to and learn from. John Bowlby and Mary D.S Ainsworth developed a theory of parent-child attachment. The theory focused on how and why children become connected emotionally to their parents and what happens when a healthy relationship between parent and infant does not develop.
The attachment theory helps one understand the importance of socialisation and what can happen when an infant does not receive the love and emotional support from his or her parents that they should. When separated from parents the child may supress loneliness or anger at first in the physical presence of their parents not being present. Bowlby asks the question, Is the attachment figure nearby, accessible, and attentive? If the child answers yes, he or she feels loved, secure and confident. If the child doesn’t feel all of these things from his or her parents at a young age he or she may develop emotional attachment issues in their future relationships which will hinder the socialisation process. The adult relationships’ one has reflects on the adults childhood relationship experiences. If one was secure as a child with their relationships they held with family member they will usually tend to look for a romantic partner that makes him or her feel secure in their adult relationships. The cases of isolated or feral children have helped us understand what happens when children are left without any human interaction from the beginning of their life.
This fact can have devastating results for the children as studied in the stories of their unfortunate lives. The feral children weren’t able to develop mentally or physically. Human contact is needed for any human to fulfil their human potential. In the cases of Anna and The Wild Boy of Aveyron as opposed to the Czech twins and Isabelle, one can only take note that the fact the Czech twins had eachother and Isabelle had the comfort of her mother that they were able to survive the trauma and be able to continue on and have a normal life after years of counselling and extra attention. Their limited interaction with other humans helped them achieve cultural transmission which is crucial for socialization. Anna and The Wild Boy of Aveyron experienced privation, which means they never experienced a close bond with anyone. Society helps one develop through the socialisation process, the activity we call socialisation is called cultural transmission. There are two stages of socialisation.
The primary stage occurs in infancy and is the “most intense period of cultural learning” (Giddens, 26) The first stage teaches the infant language, behavioural skills such as saying please and thank you and lessons to protect him or her such as telling the children not to talk to strangers. Parents teach all of the skills they learn in the first stage of socialisation which set a base a learning stepping stone to what they will learn and what is expected of them in the future and in the secondary stage of the socialisation process. This is why it is deemed as the most important stage. We as members of our society are expected to follow the rules and expectations of the culture which we live. We are brought into this world completely helpless and defenceless. Our parents supply us with all that we need to survive and the culture we live in supplies them with everything they need in order to take proper care of us. In western society our culture expects us to be clothed appropriately for the weather, learn to talk in the language which that of our country speaks and interact with others by beginning school at the age of four years old.
As I have mentioned above the process of socialisation occurs throughout a persons’ entire lifespan. It is extremely important that the process does not end in the primary stage even though it is deemed the most important stage. Secondary socialisation is just as important in my opinion. During this stage the child is introduced to a number of agencies of socialisation. “Agencies of socialisation are groups or social contexts in which significant processes of socialisation occur”. (Giddens, 288) The first agency in this process is the family which has transferred over from the primary stage. This is seen as the agent which has and will continue to have large grasp on the socialisation process of the child in infancy, adolescence and even adulthood. A child develops the ability to learn to walk and the intellectual skills of talking, counting and naming items and even learning certain characteristics from the family. Everything we learn is taught to us by our parents consciously and unconsciously.
The family provides everything a child needs such as love, security, support and a place to reach our intellectual ability. From the family the child will progress to another agent of secondary socialisation which is the school. The school is a disciplined agency, the child is expected to be punctual, follow the rules of the classroom and school, respect their teachers and other staff members, complete their assigned assignments and be cordial with their classmates. The school allows children in modern day society to mix with other cultures, race and social status. I feel this is important that the child is exposed to all of the above in his or her early years as to avoid any grade of racism in future years of life. I also prefer the idea of mixed sex schools, it allows children to mix with both boys and girls and will help in my opinion their confidence in the future as they have learned to work and interact with both sexes. The school is an extremely important agency of socialisation, it progresses the child’s education which is beneficial to the child in order to better his or her future. The third agency of socialisation to which the child progresses to is the peer group.
The peer group consists of children of the same age, same sex and mixed sex. The child is able to receive his or her first taste of freedom as most interaction with peers is carried out away from adult supervision as the child gets older and older. The child is exposed to informal socialisation because peers do spend a great deal of time in each other’s company listening to music, watching television and movies, playing sports and talking about shared interests and boyfriend/girlfriend relationships. Lalor states that “Adolescent autonomy-seeking reduces emotional dependence on the parents and frees young people to explore other relationships, develop their independence and their identity” (McDonald, 15). Peer groups help the child build confidence and find a voice. Religion is another agency of socialisation which is extremely important in certain cultures. In the modern western world however it is my opinion that religion is an agent which is losing its place as today many Roman Catholics for example are starting a family out of wedlock, getting divorced from their partners and marrying in civil ceremonies rather than in the presence of God in a church.
The final agency of socialisation is the mass media. This is an agent of socialisation that is deemed extremely important in today’s society around the world. We live in the day of social media. One is exposed to adverts for a wide range of products, newspapers, television shows, movies and radio among others. Children depending on what they watch on television socialises them in a certain way unconsciously to themselves. Shows like ‘Barney and Friends’ and ‘Sesame Street’ have in the past and in the present taught children to be thoughtful, helpful and appreciative of others. Watching shows like ‘Dora the Explorer’ and ‘Arthur’ has been “associated with better vocabulary and expressive language”. (Rathus, 310) I believe I have defined the importance of socialisation and how the cultural transmission is defined by so many agencies at different times of our lives. Both formal and informal socialisation has to occur for one to become completely socialised. Society’s only wish for us is to become capable thinking human beings that will contribute to the country, culture and society one resides in.
Giddens, A. (2009) Sociology: 6th Edition. Cambridge, UK. Polity Press. McDonald, B. (2009) Introduction to Sociology in Ireland: 2nd Edition. Dublin. Gill & MacMillan. Rathus, S, A. (2010) Childhood & Adolescence: Voyages in Development. Wadsworth Publishing.