Childhood Socialization

Child Socialization

Primary and secondary socialization are two forms of socialization that are particularly important for children.

Learning Objectives

Justify the importance of socialization for children, in terms of both primary and secondary socialization

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Socialization refers to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society.
  • Primary socialization for a child is very important because it sets the groundwork for all future socialization.
  • Primary socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture.
  • Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what is the appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society.
  • Sigmund Freud’s psychosexual stages describe the progression of an individual’s unconscious desires.
  • Lawrence Kohlberg’s stages of moral development describe how individuals develop in and through reasoning about morals.
  • Jane Loevinger developed a theory with stages of ego development.
  • Margaret Mahler’s psychoanalytic developmental theory contained three phases regarding the child’s object relations.
  • Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development describes how children reason and interact with their surroundings.
  • James Marcia’s theory focuses on identity achievement and has four identity statuses.

Key Terms

  • socialization: Socialization is the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members.
  • secondary socialization: Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what is the appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society.
  • primary socialization: Primary socialization in sociology is the acceptance and learning of a set of norms and values established through the process of socialization.

Socialization is a term used by sociologists, social psychologists, anthropologists, political scientists, and educationalists to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies, providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society. Socialization is thus “the means by which social and cultural continuity are attained. ” There are many different forms of socialization, but two types are particularly important for children. These two types are known as primary and secondary socialization.

Primary socialization in sociology is the acceptance and learning of a set of norms and values established through the process of socialization. Primary socialization for a child is very important because it sets the groundwork for all future socialization. Primary socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. It is mainly influenced by the immediate family and friends. For example if a child saw his or her mother expressing a discriminatory opinion about a minority group, then that child may think this behavior is acceptable and could continue to have this opinion about minority groups.

Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what is the appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society. Basically, it is the behavioral patterns reinforced by socializing agents of society. Secondary socialization takes place outside the home. It is where children and adults learn how to act in a way that is appropriate for the situations they are in. Schools require very different behavior from the home, and children must act according to new rules. New teachers have to act in a way that is different from pupils and learn the new rules from people around them. Secondary socialization is usually associated with teenagers and adults, and involves smaller changes than those occurring in primary socialization.

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Girl on a Playground: Playgrounds and other social situations contribute to secondary child socialization.

Theoretical Perspectives on Childhood Socialization

Theories of childhood socialization and development study the elements of the cognitive and social development that occur in childhood.

Learning Objectives

Contrast the various theories of childhood development, such as Freud’s psychosexual theory, Piaget’s stages of development and ecological systems theory

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Childhood is a unique time period of accelerated development and has been studied by many theorists.
  • Sigmund Freud developed a psychosexual theory of human development that describes how sexual fixation and satisfaction moves psychological development forward.
  • Jean Piaget developed a theory of cognitive development that explains how children learn differently at different stages in development.
  • Urie Bronfenbrenner developed ecological systems theory that explains how human development is influenced by the context of the developing child.

Key Terms

  • Ecological Systems Theory: Ecological systems theory, also called development in context or human ecology theory, specifies four types of nested environmental systems, with bi-directional influences within and between the systems.
  • Theory of Cognitive Development: Piaget’s theory of cognitive development posits that children learn by actively constructing knowledge through hands-on experience.
  • Psychosexual Theory of Human Development: This theory is divided into five stages, each association with sexual satisfaction through a particular body part.

Since the nineteenth century, childhood has been perceived as a unique phase in an individual’s life, and sociological theories reflect this. The main theories that psychologists and social scientists rely on today were developed in the twentieth century and beyond. These theories seek to understand why childhood is a unique period in one’s life and the elements of the cognitive and social development that occur in childhood. This chapter seeks to give a brief introduction to various theoretical perspectives on childhood.

Twentieth-century Austrian psychologist Sigmund Freud was one of the first psychologists to theorize childhood and the significance of developmental stages. Freud believed that sexual drive, or libido, was the driving force of all human behavior and, accordingly, developed a psychosexual theory of human development. Children progress through five stages, each association with sexual satisfaction through a particular body part.

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Sigmund Freud: Sigmund Freud developed the psychosexual theory of human development.

One of the most widely applied theories of childhood is Jean Piaget’s theory of cognitive development. Piaget posited that children learn actively through play. He suggested that the adult’s role in helping a child learn is to provide appropriate materials for the child to interact and construct. He encouraged adults to make childhood learning through play even more effective by asking the child questions to get them to reflect upon behaviors. He believed it was instructive for children to see contradictions in their explanations. His approach to childhood development has been embraced by schools, and the pedagogy of preschools in the United States.

Piaget’s Four Stages of Development

Piaget outlined four stages in one’s development to adulthood:

  • The first of Piaget’s stages of development is the sensorimotor stage, which lasts from birth until about age two. During this stage, the child learns about himself and his environment through motor and reflex actions. The child learns that he is separate from his environment and that aspects of his environment, such as his parents or a toy, continue to exist even though they may be outside of his sensory field. This observation is called object permanence.
  • The sensorimotor stage is followed by the preoperational stage, which begins about the time that the child begins to talk and lasts until about age seven. The developments associated with the preoperational phase all extend from the child learning how to deploy his new linguistic capabilities. The child begins to use symbols to represent objects. Children absorb information and fit it into preexisting categories in their minds.
  • Next, children progress to the concrete operational phase, which lasts from about first grade to early adolescence. During this stage, children more easily accommodate ideas that do not fit their preexisting worldview. The child begins to think abstractly and make rational decisions based on observable or concrete phenomena.
  • Finally, children enter the formal operational stage, which begins in adolescence and carries them through adulthood. This person no longer requires concrete objects to make rational judgements and is capable of hypothetical and deductive reasoning.

Ecological Systems Theory

In 1979, psychologist Urie Bronfenbrenner published The Ecology of Human Development, setting forth his theory known as ecological systems theory. Also called development in context theory or human ecology theory, the ecology systems theory specifies five different types of nested environmental systems: the microsystem, the mesosystem, the exosystem, the macrosystem, and the chronosystem. Each of these systems exerts influence on an individual, particularly children as they are robustly socialized.

  • The microsystem refers to the institutions and groups that most immediately and directly impact the child’s development, including the child’s family, school, religious institution, neighborhood, and peer group.
  • The mesosystem recognizes that no microsystem can be entirely discrete and refers to the relationship between microsystems. For example, a child who has been completely abandoned by his family might find it difficult to bond with teachers.
  • The exosystem describes the link between a social setting in which the individual does not have an active role an the individual’s immediate context. For example, a child’s experience at home may be impacted by a mother’s experience at work.
  • The macrosystem refers to the culture in which individuals live. A child, his school, and his parents are all part of a cultural context whose constituents are united by a sense of common identity, heritage, and values. Microsystems, and therefore mesosystems and exosystems, are impossible to understand when divorced from their macrosystemic context.
  • The chronosystem refers to the patterning of environmental events and transitions over one’s life course, as well as broader sociohistorical developments. For example, the impact of divorces on children has varied over history. When divorce was more culturally stigmatized, it had a different effect on children than today, when many children have divorced parents.

Identity Formation

Identity formation is the development of an individual’s distinct personality by which he or she is recognized or known.

Learning Objectives

Discuss the formation of a person’s identity, as well as the ideas of self-concept and self-consciousness

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Cultural identity is the feeling of identity with a group or culture, or of an individual as far as he or she is influenced by his or her belonging to a group or culture.
  • An ethnic identity is an identification with a certain ethnicity, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry.
  • National identity is an ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations.
  • A religious identity is the set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions.
  • Self-concept is the sum of a being’s knowledge and understanding of his or her self.
  • Cultural identity is the feeling of identity of a group or culture, or of an individual as far as he or she is influenced by his or her belonging to a group or culture.
  • An ethnic identity is the identification with a certain ethnicity, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry.
  • National identity is an ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations.
  • A religious identity is the set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions

Key Terms

  • cultural identity: One’s feeling of identity affiliation to a group or culture.
  • national identity: An ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations.
  • religious identity: The set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual,involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as faith and mystic experience.

Identity formation is the development of an individual’s distinct personality, which is regarded as a persisting entity in a particular stage of life by which a person is recognized or known. This process defines individuals to others and themselves. Pieces of the individual’s actual identity include a sense of continuity, a sense of uniqueness from others, and a sense of affiliation. Identity formation clearly influences personal identity by which the individual thinks of him or herself as a discrete and separate entity. This may be through individuation whereby the undifferentiated individual tends to become unique, or undergoes stages through which differentiated facets of a person’s life tend toward becoming a more indivisible whole.

Individuals gain a social identity and group identity by their affiliations. Self-concept is the sum of a being’s knowledge and understanding of himself. Self-concept is different from self-consciousness, which is an awareness of one’s self. Components of self-concept include physical, psychological, and social attributes, which can be influenced by the individual’s attitudes, habits, beliefs, and ideas. Cultural identity is one’s feeling of identity affiliation to a group or culture.

Similarly, an ethnic identity is the identification with a certain ethnicity, usually on the basis of a presumed common genealogy or ancestry. Further, national identity is an ethical and philosophical concept whereby all humans are divided into groups called nations. Members of a nation share a common identity and usually a common origin in their sense of ancestry, parentage, or descent. Lastly, a religious identity is the set of beliefs and practices generally held by an individual, involving adherence to codified beliefs and rituals and study of ancestral or cultural traditions, writings, history, and mythology, as well as faith and mystic experience.

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National Identity: Fourth of July celebrations, during which Americans dress in red, white, and blue, are manifestations of national identity. Fourth of July is only meaningful as a celebration of independence for individuals who share a sense of national identity as Americans.