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Socialization is a phrase commonly used by anthropologists, sociologists, educationalists and politicians among others to describe the process through which customs, norms and values are inherited. It is also the process through which individuals acquire skills and practices that are essential in participating in activities performed in the society. In general terms, socialization can be described as the means through which societies acquire cultural and social continuity (Pate, 2006, p. 81). However, this term is not supposed to be viewed as normative since it is a process that affects the responses of the individuals in the society and it often leads to desirable social ethics. At the same time, it is through this process that views and believes in certain concerns such as economics and races are socialized.

Socialization is the core means through which, infants acquire the necessary skills that enable them to function appropriately as committed members of the society, thus it is the fundamental process of learning that an infant can experience. Despite the fact that cultural inconsistency is manifested through customs, actions and behaviors of the whole society at large, the most essential appearance of culture is a product of the individuals’ levels of socialization and only occurs when that individual has been exposed to socialization by his/ her family members, parents and the society at large (Pate, 2006). Thus as the child is taught, knowledge is passed from one generation to another and in the process, continuity of the social and cultural characteristics is attained.

Socialization encourages both adults and children to learn from each other not only the customs and practices of the society in which they are living in but in the entire world as well. The process of learning begins during the early stages of life and continues throughout the life unless in special cases where the learning process may be terminated by physical or mental impairment. During this process, the infant learns how to relate with the people s/he interacts with, learns language of his/ her culture and cultural norms among other practices. As the infant grows, s/he begins to learn and understand the roles that the society expects of him/ her. For instance, boys learn how to be dependent as they are expected to be fathers and husbands while girls learn how they can become wives and future mothers of the society.

Socialization is important in the society in that it helps individuals in the development of personalities. While it is biologically evident that much of our personalities are a product of genes, it is the process of socialization that modifies them into specific directions that are motivated by particular beliefs and attitudes. As a result, there exist major differences in personalities between individuals from the same society (Pate, 2006, p. 83). For instance, we can find individuals who are very gentle and would not be involved in any violent activities under any circumstances while other individuals are very aggressive and will never shy away from any form of violence no matter how risky it may be.

Another importance of socialization is that it brings consistency within a society. That is to say, if children from the same society are exposed to the same kind of socialization, then their chances of sharing the same expectations and beliefs become uniform. It is from this line of thought that most governments throughout the world have harmonized education and made it obligatory for all the children so that they can decide uniformly what things should be taught at which stage and how they are going to be taught. People who have undergone positive socialization rarely violate the law and do not engage in pointless radical social changes (Pate, 2006). However, it is expected in every society that some individuals do not obey the standardized cultural values because they are abnormally exposed to socialization and fail to internalize the customs of the society thus they are considered as mentally ill or deviants. 

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As mentioned earlier, socialization is a continuous learning process that that starts almost immediately after a child is born. However, the most crucial stage for intense socialization is during early childhood when the child learns the child starts learning names of objects and those people s/he interacts with (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994, p. 28). It is thus at this stage that it starts acquiring language and the basic things of the culture in which it belongs as well as starts molding its personality. Nevertheless, socialization continues throughout their lives and as they become old, they start leaning though experiences and other people experiences and personalities.

Different cultures in the world have different ways of socializing their children. There are two major methods used in teaching children how to socialize; these are formal and informal. Formal method involves all the messages passed on from a teacher to a student and it largely performed in class where it is organized controlled and directed by mature teachers. Informal method of teaching socialization on the other hand can be performed anywhere provided the learner is available. The method involves the reproduction of what others say and do in addition to experimenting and repetition of basic skills and roles, for example when children assume adult roles in their play. In most cases around the world, it is the informal method of acquiring socialization that is commonly practiced and it is performed under the supervision of girls and women. In the beginning socialization was a responsibility of mothers and other female family members (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994). With the introduction of schools, children joining lower grades were taught under the directions of female teachers.

Primary socialization is the process through which we learn from the people who bring us up such as parent and/ or guardians. As the child grows up, s/he expect their caregivers to provide for them physical needs such clothing, food and shelter. The caregivers are also expected to teach the child the things that they need to know for them to function appropriately in the society. Such things include cultural values ad norms, language and how to relate with other people (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994, p. 42) For instance, a child may get the impression that something is good or bad when s/he sees his parents or guardian reacting to situations performed by other people or even his siblings. Therefore, if the caregiver fails to give the child sufficient primary socialization, then the likelihood of having the child not having the ability to fare well in the society as an adult becomes high.

Secondary socialization on the other hand refers to the type of socialization whereby the child learns apposite behavior as an affiliate of a smaller group that is a constituent of the society at large. Thus this socialization is associated with adults and youths and the changes involved are much smaller that those experienced in primary socialization (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994, p. 42). Changes occurring in this socialization include venturing into new careers, moving into new environments etc.    

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Another type of socialization is resocialization which is mostly experienced during adulthood. In this type of socialization, members learn new cultural values and norms that occur when such members join new social groups or when they are faced with new life circumstances. According to Rosegren & Rosegren (1994), this process is vital in enabling people to adapt to new life situations though it may at times bring contradictions on the knowledge that had previously been acquired. Even though these changes are expected to be experienced by almost all adults, senility and impairment due to diseases can slow or terminate the individual’s ability to learn and accept new situations. Situations such as retirement, loss of spouse or a friend, changing a job and the stress of children leaving the family for another place among others are all targets that necessitate resocialization. Most cases of resocialization are gentle adjustments such as getting acquitted into new working environments. Nevertheless, there are extreme situations of this process of learning which include being imprisoned, joining the army or any other situation that result into separation of the individual from the society.

Anticipatory socialization comes about when an individual learns new values and norms with the expectation of role that s/he will occupy in future. Thus when this is realized early enough and the individual makes the appropriate adjustment, the transition process becomes easier. This will not only help us to adjust easily but it will also help us to evaluate whether we can comfortably handle that role or not (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994, p. 164). For instance, a guard who is about to attend a night shift might want to adjust his sleeping habit some time before the due date so that he would comfortably do be able to trans-night when the actual time comes. This can be done by say sleeping all through the day and keeping awake the whole night during the preparation period and adapt this during the actual working.

It is the expectation of every society to have different behaviors and attitudes for girls and boys. This expectation therefore, leads us to what is referred to as gender socialization which is the propensity for girls and boys to be socialized in a different way.   While girls are brought up to be conventional to the roles of the female, boys are on the other hand brought up in a manner that will enable them to take up roles that are meant for male. Gender roles can be described as set of attitudes, personality and behaviors that are encouraged and expected by the society based on the individual’s sex (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994, p. 156). For instance, girls grow up knowing that they will at one point in life become mothers therefore they tend to practice motherhood at an early age while the boys prepare to be fathers as well.

However, there are factors that have brought some controversy on the issue of gender socialization. Some of the factors include influences of biology, family and education. It has never been clear whether the differences exhibited by male and female are a result of nature, biology or the manner in which girls and boys are brought up or socialized. Since every society has its own guidelines on the roles of male and female, family members can socialize their children without having consciously to follow the appropriate path. Also, as children join school, there are expectations that are meant for boys and others that are meant for girls (Rosegren & Rosegren, 1994). For instance, boys are expected to be top performers and as a result, teachers tend to be biased and challenge boys more than they do to girls.

Different researchers have different points of view on how children get to learn their expected roles in the society. Some of the proposed theories include:

Freud’s theory of personality development: Sigmund, the father of psychoanalysis suggests that personalities are a product of basic biological and societal factors that combine together to bring about personalities. He asserted that the mind of a person consists of three parts that interact with each other in an organized manner so as to enhance proper functioning of that person in the society. Thus if one of these parts does not function properly, the person becomes problematic to the society (Shaffer, 2008, p. 41).

Sigmund suggests that the id is the first thing to develop in the human mind. A newly born infant has got only an id in the mind and it is the part that is responsible for the contentment of the infant’s physical wishes. This id represents the most typical desires and when an individual is dominated by this id, s/he is capable of doing anything just to satisfy these desires. In the process, such people end up breaking cultural norms and values and at times risk punishment.

Superego as Sigmund suggests is that as children grow up, their conscience also develop in their minds and it enables them to conform to the values and norms expected by the society. The advantage to this is that an individual with a highly active superego will be able to accommodate numerous rules. This is very important particularly if s/he is to live a normal life.

The other part of the mind is ego. This part settles conflicts between the superego and id. Generally, it is the ego that balances the wishes of the superego and id though when it fails, the person may experience some difficulties in decision making which may consequently result into the person having unwanted behaviors in the society (Shaffer, 2008).

Mead’s theory of social behaviorism: Mead believes that people develop personalities through close interactions and connections with other individuals in the society. He further explained that self is a product of the social issues that one experiences. It is thus the most vital part in the personality of the individual since it consists of self-awareness. As a result, Mead proposed four ideas that shade some light on how this self comes to being. Among them are that self develops as one experiences social issues. The more and tough the situations are, the higher the level of self-awareness. He also suggested that social experience involves the swapping of symbols. For that matter, he goes further into explaining that human use language and other signs to deliver messages and meaning. His approaches also suggest that a person can only know the intentions of another person by viewing the situation from their own perspectives. Thus social experience depends on how much we see ourselves as others see us (Edles, L. & Appelrouth, 2004, p. 35). As a result, when we understand the roles that other people play, then we arrive at self-awareness. In other words, Mead thought that there is an I-self which is active and initiates all the activities taking place in and outside the body. There is also a me-self which is objective and does everything to ensure that there is constant interruption and adjust all the activities in relation to how other people respond. Thus he concluded that the fundamental step to self-development is when one understands the roles of the other people around him/ her.

Cooley’s theory of the looking –glass self: Cooley, supporting Mead’s idea also believed that human kind form self images in relation to how they interact with the people around them. This is because, we are shaped by other people but we cannot shape our selves. However, not every person can shape our personalities except for those who are significant to us. That is; only those people who can possibly influence our way of thinking, particularly concerning ourselves. These people can be siblings, parents, wife, husband or a close friend. Thus the looking-glass self describes the self-image in relation to what we think other people view us (Thayer, 1991, 236). In developing the self, Cooley came up with three steps; first we imagine that a person who is significant to us views us in a particular way. The second step is to imagine that this person makes adjustments about us in relation to how he perceives us. And finally we develop our self-image in relation to what this person views us.

Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development: After carrying out a research on the topic how infants think, Piaget came up with the conclusion that the manner in which children think change with time as they interact with the people around them (Coon & Mittere, 2008). In the process he came up with four stages of development which are;

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The first stage is Sensorimotor period. This is the period between birth and when the baby is around two years old. In this stage, the infant uses senses to recognize objects. The main accomplishment in this stage is the realization that objects can be recognized without being seen. The second stage is preoperational period where children learn more using symbolic thoughts even though they cannot reason out things. Piaget added that the infant is not in ability to recognize the quantity of the object though s/he can comfortably see it e.g. the volume or length of an object. The third period is the concrete operation period that occurs during the age of seven and eleven. During this stage, the child is capable of performing activities that involve thinking and lots of reasoning. Nevertheless, these operations are only performed on concrete objects and actual events. Last is the formal operational period which runs from age eleven up to adulthood. I this stage, the child gains the ability to reason and apply mental actions to abstract situations (Coon & Mittere, 2008).

In conclusion, Socialization is described as the process through which customs, norms and values are inherited or the process through which individuals acquire skills and practices that are essential in participating in activities performed in the society. In general terms, socialization can be described as the means through which societies acquire cultural and social continuity. Despite the fact that cultural inconsistency is manifested through customs, actions and behaviors of the whole society at large, the most essential appearance of culture is a product of the individuals’ levels of socialization and only occurs when that individual has been exposed to socialization by his/ her family members, parents and the society at large. Thus as the child is taught, knowledge is passed from one generation to another and in the process, continuity of the social and cultural characteristics is attained.

Socialization has been categorized into five distinct categories. These include; Primary socialization which is the process through which we learn from the people who bring us up such as parent and/ or guardians. As the child grows up, s/he expect their caregivers to provide for them physical needs such clothing, food and shelter and teach them the things that they need to know for them to function appropriately in the society. Secondary socialization on the other hand refers to the type of socialization whereby the child learns apposite behavior as an affiliate of a smaller group that is a constituent of the society at large. Thus this socialization is associated with adults and youths and the changes involved are much smaller that those experienced in primary socialization.

Another type of socialization is resocialization where members learn new cultural values and norms that occur when such members join new social groups or when they are faced with new life circumstances. This process is vital in enabling people to adapt to new life situations though it may at times bring contradictions on the knowledge that had previously been acquired. Anticipatory socialization comes about when an individual learns new values and norms with the expectation of role that s/he will occupy in future. Finally is the gender socialization which is the expectation of every society to have different behaviors and attitudes for girls and boys. While girls are brought up to be conventional to the roles of the female, boys are on the other hand brought up in a manner that will enable them to take up roles that are meant for male.

Different psychologists have come up with different theories that contribute to the issue of socialization and development. These include; Freud’s theory of personality development which suggests that personalities are a product of basic biological and societal factors that combine together to bring about personalities. He asserted that the mind of a person consists of three parts; id, superego and ego, that interact with each other in an organized manner so as to enhance proper functioning of that person in the society. Thus if one of these parts does not function properly, the person becomes problematic to the society. Mead’s theory of social behaviorism states that people develop personalities through close interactions and connections with other individuals in the society. Cooley’s theory of the looking –glass self supports Mead’s theory while Piaget’s Theory of Cognitive Development suggests that the manner in which children think change with time as they interact with the people around them.

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