Agents of Socialization There are many important agents of socialization and important messages that convey over the course of life. Two specific agents of socialization that I chose to write about are family and social class. Socialization at the micro level begins from the day we are born. From birth infants are interactive and ready to develop into members of the social world. As they cry, coo, or smile, they gradually learn that their behavior elicits response from other humans.
In early childhood, the family acts as the primary agent of socialization, passing on messages about respect for property, authority and neatness. (Handel 2007). One way which families teach their children what is right and wrong is through reward and punishment, called sanctions. Children who lie to their parents may receive verbal reprimand or a slap on the hand, be sent to their room, have a time out, or receive a beating depending on differences on child rearing patterns these are examples of negative sanctions.
Conversely, children may be rewarded for good behavior with a smile, praise, cookie or special event. These are examples of positive sanctions. The number and types of sanctions dispensed in the family shape the socialization process, including development of the self and the perceptions we have of who we are. Keeping in mind that family influences vary from one culture to another, in the United States most parents’ value friendliness, cooperation, orientation toward achievement, social competence, responsibility and independence as qualities their children should learn.
The extended dependency period for humans allows each person time to learn the complexities of culture as well as the simplicities involved in learning to sit, crawl, stand, walk, think, and participate in social interactions. Locally the long period of dependence allows children the opportunity to learn necessary skills, knowledge and social roles through affectionate and tolerant interaction with people who care about them. Social class is a meso level agent of socialization.
Our education level, our occupation, the house we live in, what we choose to do in our leisure time, the foods we eat are just a few aspects of our lives that are affected by socialization. Sociological research by Ellis Bortowski and Segal shows evidence that strongly suggests that socialization varies by social class. Distribution of resources, wealth, power, prestige rankings that we hold as individual in society affected who we become. In the United States, upper middle and middle class parents usually have above average education and managerial or professional jobs.
They tend to pass on the skills and values necessary to succeed in the social class subculture. Autonomy, creativity, self-direction, initiative, responsibility, curiosity and consideration of others are especially important for the middle class success. If the child misbehaves, parents typically analyze the child reason for misbehaving and punishment is related to those reasons. Sanctions often make instilling guilt and denying privileges.
Working class parents tend to pass on to children culture values of respect for authority, conformity to rules, and lessons that will be useful if their children have blue collar jobs. Children got immediate sanctions with no questions asked to prepare them for jobs in which obedience to rules is important to success. They are expected to be neat, clean, well-mannered and honest students (Maclead 1995). I believe cultural messages are very important in defining rules and norms that make up society and culture.
Without them there would be chaos. For people to live together, get along and have common goals, experiences, interactions and cultural messages matter. They provide guidelines and commonalities for members of a culture or society so that people can get along with each other. Agents of socialization, formal and informal, help new members find their place just as they prepare older members for new responsibilities in society. Socialization is how we learn to become members of our society.