Socialization is the process wherein culture, traditions, norms, and social expectations are transmitted to children. Socialization agents are found everywhere and it is through the learning process that socialization is realized (Henslin, 2004). For example, a father teaching his son how to ride a bike is teaching him not only how to balance and pedal the bike but also that males are strong, fast and can work with machines. On the other hand, a teacher who reacts favorably to the misbehavior of boys in the classroom tells the students that teachers tolerate boy’s rowdiness.
Moreover, the first socialization agent that a child experiences is his/her parents and immediate family. As the child comes in contact with other members of the society, peers, teachers, and mass media also become socializing agents. In a typical preschool, children are introduced and taught the behaviors and skills that are expected of them. For example, toddlers are taught to interact with other children, thereby developing their interpersonal skills, however it also teaches children how to compromise, to use language, to regulate behavior and control emotions.
Children who fail to adopt and behave appropriately are often punished or reprimanded. Children who always fight with their classmates instead of playing with them is given time out, even the children themselves react punitively by ignoring the quarrelsome child. This tells the child that being bossy, rude, and ill behaved has its consequences and in order to be accepted by the group, one has to change his/her behavior and do so according to the socially accepted norms (Cotterell, 1995).
The primary process that aids socialization is learning, learning is also a life long process wherein a child by observing, by direct instruction, and by experiencing learns what behavior and competencies are required of every member of society (Arnett, 1995). In the early stages of childhood, parents often use direct instruction and experience in order to teach their child, for example when potty training, parents often tell their child to go to the bathroom if they feel that they need to relieve themselves, or to tell mommy or daddy if you want to go to the bathroom.
If a child alerts his/her mother to that need, the mother directly brings the child to the bathroom. The child therefore comes to associate urinating or defecating with the bathroom and learns that this is the appropriate behavior when it comes to personal necessities. On the other hand, if the child fails to follow his/he mother’s instructions, and loses control of his/her bladder in the bedroom, or in the kitchen, then the child would be punished and humiliated, thus reinforcing the right behavior.
When the child reaches middle childhood, he/she becomes more observant and can learn through modeling or observing others. This is called vicarious learning, wherein one does not need to experience a situation or skill in order for learning to occur. Just by observing others, one is able to learn what is right and proper. For example, a left-handed child eats with his/her spoon in the left and the fork on the right. In a dominantly right-handed society, it is considered unacceptable or going against table manners to use a spoon in the left hand, because it should be in the right.
The left-handed child is therefore admonished by his/her parents to stop using the left hand and to use the right hand instead. For the left-handed child, the embarrassment of being looked at or being reprimanded tells him/her that the behavior is not acceptable and ultimately would learn how to use the right hand even if it is beyond his/her nature. When the child goes to school, the most important socializing agents become the peer group and his/her teachers and the school in which he/she spends most of his/her waking time.
At this time, the child learns what is expected and what is not expected through his/her peers. The child learns that in order to become accepted to the peer group, one must adopt and behave in the same way the peer group does (Zeijl, De Poel, Dois-Reymond, Ravesloot & Meulman, 2000). A child naturally wants to become popular and to be part of the in-group, thus he/she strives to adopt the behavior of the group, if the in-group misbehaves, and then the child would also consider this appropriate even if he/she misbehaves.
When a teen-ager comes in contact with a member of the gang, and that gang promotes violence and criminal behavior as a means of group identity, then the child would most likely learn violence as a means of group acceptance. The mass media is also a big socializing agent since it perpetuates society’s norms and expectations (McQuail, 2005). For example, mass media promotes the concept of beauty as thin, fashionable, popular, and sexually appealing. Young girls now must live up to that standard hence we see more girls suffering from eating disorders and body dismorphic disorders.
At the same time, mass media also tells children than materialism is not bad or inappropriate , hence children in this society tend to expect and demand from their parents more and more toys, clothes, gadgets and other material things. Socialization is a lifelong process, and the major agents of socialization continue to promote and teach social norms, mores, and traditions. As a member of society, one cannot get away from these influences and going against the norms results to consequences that only the strong-willed can live with.