Family socialization begins a process through which humans learn and develop to be the adult persons they become. Has this happened to you? You have a close friend, Joan, whom you've known for many years, and finally you meet her family and think to yourself, "Now I understand where Joan gets those habits and behaviors from." For some, the effects of family socialization are very evident and long lasting; for others, there is not much obvious effect; and for still others, it looks like there's no relationship at all. If you look closely, you'll see that some adults choose to adopt behaviors and values that are completely opposite from those of their families. For those individuals, you might also say, "Now I understand why Allan is that way." The socialization is just as strong, but it has a different effect.
For some adults, their interactions with family continues in such a close relationship that the family maintains a dominant role in their ongoing socialization. You probably know some friends in that kind of situation.
Effects of Family Socialization
Erikson's stages of development offer another model for understanding socialization. In each stage there are influences or agents of socialization who have an impact on the child and the messages of socialization being received. As the child develops and advances in psychosocial development, the agents become stronger or weaker in their capacity for influence. Early in a child's development, the family is, of course, the strongest agent, but as the child advances to preschool age, programs or schools begin to exert influence. At school age, peers are active socialization agents. For the first eight years, family, school, community, and peers play a role in the following aspects of a child's socialization:
- The development of trust
- The development of independence
- The tendency to take initiative
- The sense of competence and ambition
- Decisions about who one is
- Relationships with others
- Decisions about future generations
- Reflections on one's life
Intentional and Unintentional Socialization
Some of the influence of families is intentional and some of it is unintentional, a result of some spontaneous interaction. Watch Keeley and her mom and see if you can pick out the intentional and unintentional socialization.
Kerry, Keeley's mom, is getting ready for work. She stands in front of the mirror and spends a long time putting on makeup. Keeley is sitting near her on the floor playing, but she mostly watches her mom's makeup routine. Then Kerry fixes her hair, pushing it over her ears a certain way and checking her reflection in the mirror frequently. "It's your turn," she says to Keeley and she begins to brush Keeley's hair. "I want a French braid," Keeley says to her mom in a demanding tone. "Is that the way you ask for things?" her mom asks. Keeley gets quiet and says, "Mom, would you fix my hair in a French braid, please?" Her mom smiles and responds lovingly, and immediately starts forming the braid.
The intentional lesson Kerry was trying to teach Keeley is pretty obvious. But what was Keeley learning without Kerry intending to teach it to her? This may take some discussion and there may be some disagreement among your classmates about the unintentional socialization occurring for Keeley. The important idea is that Kerry is not even thinking about teaching Keeley anything in particular. She is simply going about the process of getting herself ready for work, but socialization is occurring.
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