What are the agencies of socialization?

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February 09, 2011 12:27AM


Primary socialization:Primary socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. For example, if a child saw his/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:Secondary socialization refers to the process of learning what is appropriate behavior as a member of a smaller group within the larger society. It is usually associated with teenagers and adults, and involves smaller changes than those occurring in primary socialization; e.g., entering a new profession or relocating to a new environment.

Developmental socialization:Developmental socialization is the process of learning behavior in a social institution or developing your social skills.

Anticipatory socialization:Anticipatory socialization refers to the processes of socialization in which a person "rehearses" for future positions, occupations, and social relationships.

Resocialization:Resocialization refers to the process of discarding former behavior patterns and accepting new ones as part of a transition in one's life. This occurs throughout the human life cycle (Schaefer & Lamm, 1992: 113). Resocialization can be an intense experience, with the individual experiencing a sharp break with their past, and needing to learn and be exposed to radically different norms and values. An example might be the experience of a young man or woman leaving home to join the military, or a religious convert internalizing the beliefs and rituals of a new faith. An extreme example would be the process by which a transsexual learns to function socially in a dramatically altered gender role.

Agents of Socialization:

Agents of socialization are the people and groups that influence our self-concepts, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors.
  1. The family: family is responsible for the youth and, among other things, determining one's attitudes toward religion. and establishing career goals.
  2. Education: education is the agency responsible for socializing groups of young people with particular skills and values in society.
  3. Religion: religions play a major role in socialization, in the context often synonymous with "indoctrination."
  4. Peer groups: peers refer to the people who are roughly the same age and/or who share other social characteristics (e.g., students in a college class).
  5. The mass media.
  6. Other agents: the work place, public institutions, etc.

The Media and Socialization:

Theorists, like Parsons, and textbook authors, like Ely Chinoy (1960), and Harry M. Johnson (1961), recognized that socialization didn't stop when childhood ended. They realized that socialization continued on into adulthood, but they treated it as a form of specialized education. Johnson (1961), for example, wrote about the importance of inculcating members of the US Coastguard with a set of values so as to respond to commands and act in unison without question.

Later scholars accused these theorists of socialization of not recognizing the importance of the mass media which, by the middle of the twentieth century, was becoming more significant as a social force. There was concern about the link between television and the education and socialization of children, a concern that continues today, but when it came to adults, the mass media were regarded merely as sources of information and entertainment, rather than molders of personality.

Some sociologists and theorists of culture have recognized the power of mass communication as a socialization device. Dennis McQuail recognizes the argument: … the media can teach norms and values by way of symbolic reward and punishment for different kinds of behavior as represented by the media. An alternative view is that it is a learning process whereby we all learn how to behave in certain situations, and with the expectations which go with a given role or status in society. Thus, the media are continually offering pictures of life and models of behavior in advance of actual experience. -McQuail 2005: 494)

Socialization is the process whereby individuals are made aware of behaviors that are expected of them with regards to the norms, beliefs, attitudes, and values of the society in which they live.

Socialization helps the individual face the realities of life, through the appreciation of their culture practices. The agencies of socialization are the social institutions that pass on to the people these norms, values, beliefs, and attitudes. There are several agencies of socialization which are developmental: anticipatory, resocialization, reverse, primary, and secondary socialization.

However, the main agencies are those regarding primary socialization, which is the process where people learn attitudes, values, and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. Secondary socialization agencies are important too. These agencies are responsible for the processes in where individuals learn appropriate behaviors as members of a smaller group within the larger society.

Under the primary agencies are the family, peer groups, and opinion leaders. The family is the most integral part of every individual's upbringing, thus one of the most important agencies of socialization. The family has the power to influence an individual's self-concepts, emotions, attitudes, and behaviors.

Peer groups are made up of people with similar ages and statuses in society. This group also sets the norms and values by which the individual must abide.

Under the secondary agencies of socialization are the work environment, education, mass media, and religion.

The mass media, which serve as the medium of communication, is one of the agencies of socialization. Through the mass media, individuals are able to learn and adopt new lifestyles and behaviors which, at the end, become a convention in society. An example of this is fashion.

Religion is another major agency of socialization, because it embodies the moral principles of society. In this respect, religion has its own set of norms, values, and objectives that regulate the conduct of its members.

In conclusion, it is from these agencies of socialization that we learn how to act in the way that others expect of us in society.