SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
Chapter 4 Socialization
Chapter 5 Social Interaction and Social Structure
Chapter 6 Social Groups, Organizations, and Social Institutions
Welcome to week two of SOC 250, Introduction to Sociology. This week we will be learning about the purpose and importance of socialization. In that process we will distinguish between nature and nurture and the influence of each as we grow into adulthood. We will also review the stages of socialization that each of us goes through. In addition we will discuss the need for social interaction and social structure in our lives and distinguish between ascribed and achieved status. It will be interesting to review the various types of nonverbal communication as well as the need and concern for social interaction. During the week we will come to understand the needs of social groups, organizations, and social institutions and in that process will relate the sociological perspectives of social groups and organizations.
Socialization is the lifelong process of social interaction in which the individual acquires a social identity and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are essential for effective participation in a society. Thus, socialization transforms a newborn into a person who becomes a social being. Socialization, from childhood to old age, can be relatively smooth or very bumpy, depending on factors such as age, sex, race/ethnicity, and social class. Generally, however, socialization has four key functions that range from providing us with a social identity to transmitting culture to the next generation.
Socialization Establishes Our Social Identity: Have you ever thought about how you became the person you are today? Sociology professors sometimes ask students to give 20 answers to the question “Who am I?” How would you respond? You would probably include a variety of descriptions such as college student, single or married, female or male, your occupation, and family status (son or father, for example). All of your answers would reflect a sense of being someone, of yourself. You are who you are largely because of socialization.
Socialization Teaches Us Role Taking: Why do you act differently in class than when chatting with your friends? Because we play different roles in different settings. A role is the behavior expected of a person in a particular social position. The way we interact with a parent is typically very different from the way we talk to an employer, a friend, or a professor. We all learn appropriate roles through the socialization process
Socialization Control our Behavior: In learning appropriate roles, we absorb values and a variety of rules about how we should and should not interact in everyday situations. If we follow the rules, we’re usually rewarded or at least accepted. If we break the rules, we may be punished. As a result, socialization controls our behavior.
Socialization Transmits Culture to the Next Generation: Socialization is also the process of acquiring the culture in which we live. Each generation passes on the learned roles and rules to the next generation. The culture that is transmitted includes language, beliefs, values, norms, and symbols.
Nature and Nurture
Biologists tend to focus on the role of heredity or genetics in human development. In contrast, most social scientists, including sociologists, underscore the role of learning, socialization, and culture. The difference of opinion is often called the nature-nurture debate. Many researchers believe that heredity and environment overlap in shaping the developing person, but there is still a tendency to emphasize either nature or nurture.
How Important is Nature? Some scientists propose that biological factors, especially the brain, play an important role in our development. A study of brain scans, for example, suggests that increased activity in a region of the brain, (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex), a few inches behind the bridge of the nose may predispose people to have a negative outlook on life. Research suggests that when activity in this region of the brain increases, people tend to be more anxious, irritable, angry, and unpleasant.
How Important is Nurture? Most sociologists agree that nature affects human development. They maintain, however, that nurture is more significant than nature because socialization and culture shape even biological inputs. Some research suggests that environment (nurture) influences children’s genetic makeup (nature). A family history of alcoholism, for example, places a person at greater risk for development of alcohol problems.
Primary Socialization Agents
Infants waste no time in socializing parents and others to be caretakers. By fretting, crying, and whining, they teach adults when to feed, change, and pick them up. Thus, even babies aren’t merely passive recipients; they are also active participants in their own development. The family, peer groups, teachers, and the media are some of the primary agents of socialization…the individuals, groups, or institutions that teach us what we need to know to participate effectively in society.
Family: Parents, siblings, grandparents, and other family members play a critical role in our socialization. Parents, however, are the first and most influential socialization agents. Parents have four common parenting styles that affect socialization. In authoritarian parenting, parents tend to be harsh, unresponsive, and rigid, and to use their power to control a child’s behavior. Authoritative parenting is warm, responsive, and involved yet unobtrusive. Permissive parenting is lax as parents set few rules but are usually warm and responsive. Uninvolved parenting is indifferent and neglectful. Parents focus on their own needs rather than those of the children, spend little time interacting with the children, and know little about their interests or whereabouts. Healthy child development is most likely in authoritative homes, in which parents are consistent in combining warmth, monitoring, and discipline. Authoritative parenting tends to produce children who are self-reliant, achievement-oriented, and successful in school.
Play and Peer Groups: Play is important in children’s development because it provides pleasure, forms friendships, and builds communication, emotional, and social skills. Peer groups also play a significant role in our socialization. A peer group consists of people who are similar in age, social status, and interests. All of us are members of peer groups, but such groups are especially influential until about our mid-20s. After that, coworkers, spouses, children, and close friends are usually more important than peers in our everyday lives. Culture is learned and it shapes how we think, feel, and behave. If a child is born in one region of the world but raised in another, he or she will learn the customs, attitudes, and beliefs of the adopted culture.
Teachers and Schools: Most of us would praise a certain teacher who recognized our abilities, encouraged us to read, and inspired us to excel academically. Like family and peer groups, teachers and schools have a strong influence on our socialization. By the time children are 4 or 5, school fills an increasingly large portion of their lives. The primary purpose of the school is to instruct children and enhance their cognitive development. Schools do not simply transmit knowledge; they also teach children to think about the world in different ways.
Popular culture and the Media: Because of iPods, Smartphones, texting, YouTube, and social networking sites such as Facebook, young people are rarely out of the reach of the electronic media. How does such technology affect socialization? The average young American now spends practically every waking minute, except for time in school, using a smartphone, computer, television, or other electronic device. Generally, youths who spend more time with media have lower grades and lower levels of personal contentment. These findings are similar across all ages, for girls and boys, race/ethnicity, parents’ social class, and single- and two-parent households. High media usage can decrease academic success, but two thirds of parents are especially concerned that the media contribute to young people’s violent or sexual behaviors.
Social Interaction and Social Structure
All of us conform to a cultural social structure that shapes our roles, status, social interaction, and nonverbal and online communication. Social structure is an organized pattern of behavior that governs people’s relationships. Because social structure guides our actions, it gives us the feeling that life is orderly and predictable rather than haphazard or random. We’re often not aware of the impact of social structure until we violate cultural rules, formal or informal, that dictate our daily behavior. People may sometimes resent the impact of social structure because it limits their personal choices. But like it or not, social structure and social interaction, whether at work or a doctor’s office, shape our daily lives. Every society has a social structure that encompasses statuses, roles, groups, organizations, and institutions.
For sociologists, status refers to a social position that a person occupies in society. Thus, executive, secretary, physician, and nurse are all social statuses. Other statuses that are familiar to you include student, professor, musician, voter, sister, parent, police officer, and friend. Sociologists don’t assume that one position is more important than another. A mother, for example, is not more important than a father, and an adult is not more important than a child. Instead, all statuses are significant because they determine social identity, or who we are. Status sets include both ascribed and achieved statuses. An ascribed status is a social position that a person is born into. An achieved status, in contrast, is a social position that a person attains through personal effort or assumes voluntarily.
Each status is associated with one or more roles. A role is the behavior expected of a person who has a particular status. We occupy a status but play a role. In this sense, a role is the dynamic aspect of a status. College student is a status, but the role of a college student requires many formal behaviors such as going to class or engaging online, reading, thinking, completing weekly assignments, writing papers, and taking exams. Informal behaviors may include joining a student club, befriending classmates, and attending football games.
Statuses and roles are two critical components of social structure that shape our everyday relationships, but it is social interaction that provides the basis of these relationships and affects who you are, how you behave, and what you say. Social interaction seems natural simple, but it’s fairly complex. Our social interaction begins in infancy and changes over time depending on the situation and our sex, ethnicity, social class, marital status, and age, among other factors.
A social group consists of two or more people who interact with one another, and who share a common identity and a sense of belonging. Friends, families, workgroups, religious congregations, clubs, athletic teams, WW II veterans, and organizations are examples of social groups. Each of us is a member of many groups simultaneously. Some groups are highly organized and stable parties; others are fluid and temporary. Interaction, is the key ingredient in creating and maintaining groups. Social groups are essential because they provide an important part of our social identity and help us understand the behavior of other people in our society. Some groups, nonetheless, are more binding and significant than others because they shape our social and moral beliefs. Our most important social groups are primary and secondary groups, in-groups and out-groups, and reference.
A formal organization is a complex and structured secondary group that has been deliberately created to achieve specific goals in an efficient manner. We depend on a variety of formal organizations to provide goods and services in a stable and predictable way, including companies that supply clean water for brushing our teeth, numerous food producers who stock our favorite breakfast items, and garment industries and retailers that produce and sell the clothes we wear.
A social institution is an organized and established social system that meets one or more of a society’s basic needs. Some social institutions are almost universal because they ensure a society’s survival and practically all members of a society participate. According to functionalists, there are five major social institutions worldwide which include the family, the economy, political institutions, education, and religious organizations.
Social institutions such as the family, education, and religion try to maintain social control over moral misbehavior, whereas the criminal justice system has the legal power to control crime and punish offenders. The criminal justice system refers to government agencies, including the police, courts, and prisons, that are charged with enforcing laws, passing judgment on offenders, and changing criminal behavior. The criminal justice system relies on three major approaches in controlling crime: prevention and intervention, punishment, and rehabilitation.
View the following video to review a simple explanation of the socialization process. Then view a very short video on social institutions.
What are social institutions?
Socialization is the lifelong process of social interaction in which the individual acquires a social identity and ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are essential for effective participation in a society. All of us conform to a cultural social structure that shapes our roles, status, social interaction, and nonverbal and online communication. We have reviewed social groups which consist of two or more people who interact with one another, and who share a common identity and a sense of belonging. There are formal and informal groups and formal social institutions which vary in size and complexity. We also explored primary groups and secondary groups which vary in the amount of interaction between members. At one time or another, all of us violate some of society’s rules. We have examined the characteristics of deviance and crime, discussed several sociological explanations of why people deviate, and then looked at institutional attempts to control and change rule-breaking behavior.
SOC. 4th Edition. Benokraitis. Cengage Learning, 2014. ISBN: 9781133592129
Schaefer, Richard T. (2013). Sociology: A Brief Introduction (10th ed.), New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
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Billingham, M. (2007). Sociological Perspectives in Health and Social Care. Health and Social Care Book 1. Oxford: Heinemann.