Socialization Examples in Sociology

By Charlotte Nickerson, published July 11, 2022 | Fact Checked by Saul Mcleod, PhD


Socialization is the lifelong process of an individual or group learning the expected norms and customs of a group or society through social interaction.

Socialization is a continuous process that begins at birth and continues throughout our lives. Through it, people develop a sense of self and learn to become members of their society (Cromdal, 2006).

The two largest differentiations made between types of socialization are primary socialization and secondary socialization, but sociologists have also conceptualized socialization along the axes of organization, distance, and development (Cromdal, 2006).

What is an Agent of Socialization?

An agent of socialization is a person or group of people who teach people the values, beliefs, and behaviors that are expected in their society.

The family is usually the child's first and most important agent of socialization. Children learn language, manners, and how to behave in their culture from their parents and other adults in the home.

As they grow older, children are exposed to other agents of socialization, such as the media, schools, religious institutions, and peer groups. Each of these agents plays a role in shaping the child's self-identity and worldview (Cromdal, 2006).

1. Socialized Delinquency

Socialized delinquency is the violation of the law by individuals younger than 18 years that result from their adherence to the attitudes and values of a subculture, such as a gang, that glorifies criminal or antisocial conduct.

Socialized delinquency is a type of informal socialization that is often forced. This means that individuals are socialized into a delinquent lifestyle by peer groups, mass media and family members that already participate in such behavior, rather than through formal institutions such as schools and churches.

While not everyone who is exposed to these factors becomes delinquent, these agents of socialization can increase the likelihood that an individual does (Osgood & Anderson, 2004).

An individual may be exposed to a variety of sources that glorify criminal behavior. For example, gangs often recruit new members by promising them status, power, and protection.

As people assimilate into these gangs, they begin to adopt the values and norms of the group, which may include violence, drug use, and other criminal behavior.

When they do not comply with these standards , they may be beaten, killed, or removed from the gang — further enforcing delinquency.

The family is also a major source of socialization for children and adolescents. Family members model appropriate behavior, instill moral values, and provide emotional support.

However, in some families, criminal behavior is tolerated or even encouraged. For example, children who grow up in homes where violence is common are more likely to develop violent tendencies themselves, and learn that violence is the best way to reach one's ends.

The media may also play a role in socializing individuals into delinquency by depicting crime as glamorous and exciting. Some sociologists argue that violent video games, such as Grand Theft Auto, have a desensitizing effect on players, making them more likely to engage in larceny or gun violence themselves.

Media that acts as agents of socialization are not necessarily visual. Others have argued that some genres of music — such as punk and heavy metal — promote antisocial values such as anarchy and violence, and have even been in themselves the motivation for criminal acts (Osgood & Anderson, 2004).

2. Gender Socialization

Gender socialization is a form of primary socialization which is the process by which children and infants learn the norms and behaviors associated with their gender. It is thought to occur within the family, peer groups, mass media and school curriculum (Bhattacharjee, 2021).

Gender socialization starts from the moment children are born. Parents tend to treat boys and girls differently even from a very young age.

For example, they may buy different kinds of toys for boys and girls – dolls for girls and toy cars for boys; or different types of infant clothings. This sends out a message to children that there are certain activities or behaviors which are only suitable for people of each gender.

As children get older, they begin to spend more time with their peer group and less time with their parents. Peers play an important role in gender socialization as they often reinforce the messages that children receive from other sources, such as the mass media and family.

For example, if a boy is interested in playing with dolls, his friends may tease him and tell him that only girls do that. As a result, he may learn to conform to gender norms and behave in ways that are considered ‘masculine.'

The mass media is also thought to play a role in gender socialization. For example, TV programmes or movies often depict women as being interested in shopping and men as being interested in sports. Children learn these gender roles from what they see on TV and begin to believe that these are how men and women are supposed to behave.

Finally, gender socialization can be formalized through the school curriculum. The subjects that children learn at school often reflect gender norms and stereotypes.

For example, girls are often expected to study ‘feminine’ subjects such as nursing and english, while boys are expected to study ‘masculine’ subjects such as woodwork.

This can send out the message to children that there are certain activities or jobs which are only suitable for people of each gender (Bhattacharjee, 2021).

3. Hidden Curriculum

The hidden curriculum, first described by Philip Jackson (1968), is a set of unspoken or unofficial rules and values that students learn while attending school.

It is often contrasted with the more formalized, official curriculum that is spelled out in a school's mission statement or course catalog.

Although the hidden curriculum is taught in a formal institution, it is a form of informal socialization. The hidden curriculum includes things like the way teachers dress and behave, the way they interact with students, the way discipline is handled, and the overall climate of the school.

These factors can send strong messages to students about what is important and what is not, what kind of behavior is acceptable and what is not, and what kind of people are valued and who is not (Jackson, 1968).

For example, a school that has a strict dress code may be sending the message that appearance and conformity are more important than individuality and self-expression.

A school that has a lot of rules and regulations may be sending the message that order and compliance are more important than creativity and innovation. And a school that has a lot of violence and bullying may be sending the message that aggression and force are more effective than cooperation and kindness.

While the hidden curriculum is often unintentional, it can still have a powerful impact on students. It can shape their values, beliefs, and attitudes, and it can influence the way they behave both inside and outside of school.

The hidden curriculum can also reinforce social inequality. For example, schools that track students into different ability levels or classes based on test scores may be reinforcing the idea that some students are better than others and that some students are not worth as much attention or investment.

This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where students who are labeled as "less capable" may begin to believe it and underperform as a result (Jackson, 1968).

4. Morality

Morality is a system of beliefs about right and wrong behavior. Morality is often thought of as something that comes from a person's religious beliefs, but it can also come from family, social groups, and clubs. Religion is one of the most important sources of morality.

Religious leaders teach their followers what they believe is right and wrong, and these teachings can have a strong influence on people's behavior. For example, many religions teach that murder is wrong (Staub, 2013).

Family is another important source of morality. Parents often teach their children what they believe is right and wrong, and these beliefs can stay with them into adulthood. For example, if a child is taught that it is wrong to steal, they are less likely to steal as an adult.

Social groups and clubs can also have an impact on a person's morality. For example, membership in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Scouts requires a commitment to follow a code of conduct that includes things like helping other people and being truthful. These organizations can help to instill moral values in their members throughout one's life.

For example, an adult's membership in a homeowner's association may teach them that conformity and the maintenance of homogeneity within a community are important to social order.

While morality can come from many different sources, it is often internalized by individuals and used to guide their behavior. Internalization is the process by which individuals adopt the beliefs and values of others as their own. Once people internalize morality, it can be very difficult to change.

The process of socializing morality can be either formal or informal. Formal socialization for morality typically occurs in institutions like schools and religious organizations. In these settings, moral values are explicitly taught to individuals.

For example, a teacher may tell her students that it is important to be honest and to help others. Informal socialization for morality typically occurs outside of formal institutions.

It often happens within families and social groups. For example, a child may learn to be generous from watching her parents share their food with others (Staub, 2013).

5. Social Relationships

All social relationships involve some form of social interaction, and these interactions provide opportunities for socialization.

Socialization that occurs through social relationships can be both formal and informal, voluntary and forced. For example, the relationships between prisoners and prison guards are typically very formal and structured, and reinforce the idea that prisoners are below and must respect guards.

On a less severe level, people who join religious organizations do so voluntarily, but people who are born into a particular religion usually have no choice in the matter.

Ultimately, the line between voluntary and forced socialization in relationships is dependent upon whether someone builds them by choice or circumstance (Bhattacharjee, 2021).

Peer Group

Peer groups are one type of social relationship that can have a significant impact on an individual's socialization.

A peer group is a group of people who are roughly the same age and who have similar interests. Peer groups can provide individuals with a sense of identity and belonging, and they can also serve as a source of information about the world.

For example, young children often learn about gender roles from their peers. Boys learn that it is "normal" to play with toy cars and girls learn that it is "normal" to play with dolls (Bhattacharjee, 2021).

Family

Families are another type of social relationship that can influence an individual's socialization. Families are considered the first agent of socialization, and provide individuals with a sense of identity and belonging. They can also serve as a source of information about the world. For example, children often learn about morality from their parents.

They learn what their parents believe is right and wrong, and they internalize these beliefs. Schools are another type of social relationship that can influence an individual's socialization.

School

Schools provide children with a formal education, but they also teach them how to interact with others in a structured setting. For example, children learn how to share, take turns, and follow rules when they are in school.

Work

The Workplace is yet another type of social relationship that can influence an individual's socialization. This environment can teach individuals the importance of cooperation and teamwork. It can also provide them with a sense of identity and belonging.

6. Subculture

Subcultures are groups of people who share similar values, beliefs, and behaviors that are different from the mainstream culture. Subcultures can be based on race, ethnicity, religion, social class, or any other shared experience (Leonard, 1991).

While subcultures are typically smaller than the mainstream culture, they can still have a significant impact on an individual's socialization. This is because individuals in subcultures often interact with each other on a more intimate level than they do with people outside of their group.

As a result, they have a greater opportunity to share their values and beliefs. The mass media is another source of socialization for individuals in subcultures. The media often portray subcultures in a negative light, which can lead to prejudice and discrimination.

However, the media can also be a source of information and support for members of a subculture. For example, the media can provide a platform for members of a subculture to share their experiences with the world, and a band's music albums can create a common sense of taste and identity among those who choose to participate in it.

Certain subcultures can be joined voluntarily, while membership in others is generally forced. Ethnicity is one example of a subculture that members have no choice in joining, as the judgements of others and the socialization of one's family, community, and peers leads group members to take on an ethnic identity's beliefs toward other groups, way of speaking, and so on.

Meanwhile, the subculture surrounding a pop star is generally one that people join by choice and express through cultural references, slang, and music listening habits (Leonard, 1991).

About the Author

Charlotte Nickerson is a member of the Class of 2024 at Harvard University. Coming from a research background in biology and archaeology, Charlotte currently studies how digital and physical space shapes human beliefs, norms, and behaviors and how this can be used to create businesses with greater social impact.

Fact Checking

Content is rigorously reviewed by a team of qualified and experienced fact checkers. Fact checkers review articles for factual accuracy, relevance, and timeliness. We rely on the most current and reputable sources, which are cited in the text and listed at the bottom of each article. Content is fact checked after it has been edited and before publication.

This article has been fact checked by Saul Mcleod, a qualified psychology teacher with over 17 years' experience of working in further and higher education. He has been published in psychology journals including Clinical Psychology, Social and Personal Relationships, and Social Psychology.

Cite this Article (APA Style)

Nickerson, C. (2022, July 1). Socialization Examples in Sociology. Simply Sociology. https://simplysociology.com/socialization-examples.html

References

Bhattacharjee, N. (2021). Through the looking glass: Gender socialisation in a primary school. In Gender and Education in India A Reader (pp. 40-52). Routledge.

Cromdal, J. (2006). Socialization.

Leonard, W. M. (1991). Socialization into an avocational subculture. Journal of Sport Behavior, 14(3), 169.

Osgood, D. W., & Anderson, A. L. (2004). Unstructured socializing and rates of delinquency. Criminology, 42(3), 519-550.

Jackson, P. W. (1968). Life in classrooms. Teachers College Press.

Staub, E. (2013). Positive social behavior and morality: Socialization and development. Elsevier.