Agents of Socialisation
Socialization is used by psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, educationalists and anthropologists to denote the constant process of acquiring and disseminating customs, ideologies and norms, giving a person the habits and skills that are needed for participation in a particular community or a group. It is an amalgamation of self-imposed as well as externally enforced rules and anticipations of other individuals in the society.
Contrasting other species whose behaviours are biologically developed, human beings require social experiences in order to survive and to learn about their culture. Even though cultural differences are noticeable in the customs, behaviours and actions of entire social groups, the uppermost basic articulation of culture is seen at the personal level. The articulation can exclusively be acquired after an individual socializes with his family and external social networks, which represent socialization agents. People who act as socialization’s agents include relatives, friends, teachers, employers, religious leaders, as well as fictional characters which people read about in books or see in the media (Berns, p.46). Determining how the 3 agents of socialisation; peer group, work and mass media contribute to a person’s beliefs, sense of life, values and view, and also any inherent blinds spots they might have.
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According to Mead (p.128), a peer group consists of individuals who are similar in age, social status and share common interests. Socialization within peer groups begins in the early years of the human growth process for instance when children in a playground educate each other on norms relating to the rules of the game, taking turns or shooting a basket. The socialization process continues as kids mature into teenagers. Peer groups play an integral role in teenagers life’s in many different ways. They start to develop identities which are totally different from those of their parents and try to exercise their independence. At this stage, teenagers are learning about making their own decisions especially with regard to peer group activities.
They start to learn how to devise strategies to win “the game” or how to handle uncomfortable issues/dramas/debates/questions that might arise during group activities. The kind of knowledge/information that an individual acquires from his or her peer group highly influences their sense of self. For instance, the problem-solving skills and techniques an individual learns within their peer group could determine his or her self-esteem and confidence in later life. In addition, the peer group could impact the thoughts of individual group members. A person learns to act in a way that they consider will please their peers. This is because; acceptance by fellow peers is a crucial constituent of socialization. This implies that, every peer group has its own set of beliefs, thoughts, values and behaviours, which must be followed by all members regardless of whether they are right or wrong. Consequently, a peer group can either have a positive or a negative impact on a person’s values, beliefs and behaviour. Peer groups during the teenage years could have a negative influence on its group members.
The main detrimental manifestations include bullying, alcohol and drug abuse, premature adolescent sexual activities and other proscribed behaviours in the society. At this stage, peer influences also develop in the school environment. Being associated with peers whose level of academic excellence matches that of a given individual helps in providing a sense of belonging and self worth. However, there might be the tendency to exclude or bully a student who in their opinion is not at the same academic level. At this stage of the socialization process of a student, teachers, parents as well as other grown-up role models take up a crucial role in helping the affected student have a better sense of self (Brinkerhoff, p.68). Kohn (p.31) further maintains that, peer groups present their members with an opportunity to converse on interests and matters that children may not discuss with their parents like clothing, lifestyles, and fashions.
These interests form an important part of the lives of young people and thus, from their peer groups, they are able to learn about the latest mode of dressing, fashions and lifestyles. As a result, peers are aware of what is fashionable or not. Moreover, through such interests, peers acquire different viewpoints of looking at the world around them. This means that, they are able to tell about the background of an individual from his or her style of dressing, eating as well as interacting with other people. Furthermore, schools, neighbourhoods, religious centres and other social institutions provide a wide range of peer groups.
People have a tendency of viewing their individual group positively and discrediting others. For instance, a peer group with a disadvantaged family background, lower income and lower social status may have a negative attitude towards groups with a higher social standing and who are in a better financial position. Normally, those living in poverty view those who are wealthier as selfish, arrogant and rude. Therefore, a peer group of poverty stricken individuals may influence their members to hold the same beliefs or attitudes towards those who are wealthier than themselves. Such negative attitudes form an inherent blind spot within individuals, which further hinder developing and nurturing of positive relations between people across different social classes. Mass media
According to Andersen and Taylor (p.87), this is the sharing of non-personal information to the members of public, like what takes place on television, radio, the internet, magazines and newspapers. The media largely impacts social norms since people spend more than four hours on average a day watching TV and children spend even more time. People learn about material possessions such as bigger homes, cars, holidays, and technology, and also nonmaterial things like beliefs, values and the expectations of the society. A number of sociologists believe that, mass media wields a strong socialising influence; however the degree of its impact is hard to measure. Even though the media is considered to empower people with extensive information and knowledge concerning the general world, it could also cause harm to its receivers and audience.
This is made possible by stressing on particular topics, which in turn create, control and manage people’s thoughts on what ought to be viewed as important, normative and real. For example, viewing of fighting or violent television shows or videos tend to lead to violent behaviours among children and teenagers. This is because; they try to put into practice what they see or learn on television or the internet. From this perspective, it can be argued that, the media influences individuals’ views and beliefs on violence by making them consider it as a good thing. Moreover, the media is used by political and other influential groups to seek support from members of the community on their activities whether good or bad. For instance, social networking sites may be used by such groups to distribute information on planned boycotts or protest (stop work actions) in order for the government or business to address certain matters like unemployment, job security or injustice in the society.
In such a case, people especially the youth may end up believing that, violent reactions or behaviours are the best way of achieving their goals, which is against societal norms and values. In addition, social media & the internet is becoming a channel of distributing hate speech (e.g. twitter trolling) and threats as well as socially unaccepted practices like racism particularly towards minority groups. Consequently, individuals from dominant groups view those from minority groups as insignificant in the society. On the other hand, those from minority group may develop self-hatred and a feeling of worthlessness.
This is a wrong view of the world because, every member of the society play a different role regardless of their ethnic group, race, skin colour and culture (Andersen and Taylor, p.91). Rosengren (p.53) asserts that, the use of the internet is becoming popular among children and teenagers, which poses a threat to children through access to inappropriate materials and adverts. It could act as a visual motivator of the minds of young people. The culture expressed through mass media places an unrealistic attitude towards glamour, promiscuity, sexual satisfaction, violence, instant gratification. Youngsters are being drawn to unlawful behaviours like prostitution, stealing, bashing in order to easily earn money to satisfy their needs. This results in degradation of personal values, and adoption of negative beliefs. Contrary, mass media could also have positive contribution to the beliefs and values of individuals to some extent. There are shows, internet sites and posts distributing information on positive values like fighting against violence, racism, gender and social inequalities. Such information helps people especially youngsters to grow and live according to expected social values and norms and to have positive view of the society in general.
Drawing from Ferrante-Wallace (p.170), work is part of people’s lives and thus individuals spend a considerable period of time at their workplace. Although they have developed certain cultures through socialization since childhood, employees need new socialization for them to fit in their workplace. Such socialization includes material culture like operating machines and nonmaterial culture like interaction among employees at different levels of the organisation. Every organization has a distinct organizational culture, code of conduct and rules and regulations most of which revolve around relating to customers, colleagues as well as discharging duties. Employee motivation is viewed as a significant way of enhancing efficiency and increasing productivity within an organization. Thus, different organizations have different motivational factors such as promotions, training programs, bonuses, insurance covers, leaves and salary increments.
In addition, an organizational culture that advocates for honest, transparency and accountability helps in building the values of individuals within the organization. Working in such an environment may contribute to the values of an individual by teaching him or her to be honesty in all his or her dealings both at work and outside. Nevertheless, this type of culture may lead workers in an inherent blind spot of assuming that all people are honest which may in turn result into financial losses through trusting fraudulent customers or other people.
Moreover, most companies do not operate during the weekends especially on Sunday, which is considered as a worship day for some religions. However, there are organizations that operate throughout the week and do not support the religious beliefs of their employees. Consequently, the religious beliefs of individuals working for such organizations may be negatively affected. Additionally, organizations that practice corporate social responsibility teach their workers to be socially responsible individuals and to have a different perspective of the society as full of responsible people and business organizations (Ferrante-Wallace, p.172).
Socialization helps individuals to acquire the needed norms, ideologies and customs for participating in the society. Human beings learn their culture and survive through social experiences. Peer groups help children to develop identities that are different from their parents and independence. They contribute to one’s sense of life through the acquisition of knowledge on dealing with issues. Through peer groups, people also develop different perspectives of the world in relation to lifestyle, fashion and social status. Mass media influences the values, beliefs and views of individuals by stressing on topics that people should consider real, important and normative. Work influences a person’s sense of self, belief, values and view of the society through the prevailing organizational culture at his or her workplace.
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