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Lecture 4 - Socialization

  • What would happen if a child were reared in total isolation from other people?

  • Will identical twins show similarities in personality traits, behavior, and intelligence if reared apart?

  • How do we come to develop self-identity?

  • What stages of socialization do we pass through during the life cycle?

  • How do the family, the school, the peer group, the mass media, and the workplace contribute to the socialization process?

Oscar Stohr and Jack Yufe are identical twins who were separated as babies after their parents' divorce. Oscar was reared as a strict Catholic by his maternal grand­mother in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia. As a member of the Hitler youth movement in Nazi Germany, he learned to hate Jews. By contrast, his brother Jack was reared in Trinidad by the twins Jewish father. Jack joined an Israeli kibbutz at age 17 and later served in the Israeli army. During World War II, he felt loyal to the British, reflecting his years in Trinidad, and hated the Nazis.

The brothers met briefly in 1954, but Jack was warned by a translator not to tell Oscar that he was Jewish. In 1979, at age 47, the twins were reunited by social scientists interested in studying the degree to which environmental forces shape human behavior. Since Oscar and Jack were born with the same genes, any later differences in per­sonality must result from their dissimilar up­bringing.

Researchers found that, while physically alike, the twins differ in many important respects. Jack is a workaholic; Oscar enjoys leisure-time activi­ties. Whereas Oscar is a traditionalist who is dom­ineering toward women, Jack is a political liberal who is much more accepting of feminism. Finally, Jack is extremely proud of being Jewish, while Oscar never mentions his Jewish heritage (Begley, 1979; Chen, 1979).

What accounts for such substantial differences between identical twins reared apart? As was seen in Chapter 3, each culture has a unique character which shapes the values and behavior of its mem­bers. Socialization is the process whereby people learn the attitudes, values, and actions appropri­ate to individuals as members of a particular cul­ture. For example, Eskimos learn to enjoy eating the raw intestines of birds and fish, while Chinese people eat carp's head and the tripe (stomach tis­sue) of pigs. Unlike these peoples, Americans have not been socialized to appreciate such foods. Instead, we view caviar (salted eggs of sturgeon) as an exquisite delicacy.

Socialization occurs through human interac­tions. We will, of course, learn a great deal from those people most important in our lives— immediate family members, best friends, teach­ers, and so forth. But we also learn from people we see on the street, on television, and in films and magazines. Through interacting with people as well as through our own observations, we dis­cover how to behave "properly" and what to ex­pect from others if we follow (or challenge) society's norms and values.

Socialization affects the overall cultural prac­tices of a society, and it also shapes the image that we hold of ourselves. For example, in the United States, a person who is viewed as "too heavy" or "too short" does not conform to the ideal cultural standard. If he or she is judged unattractive, the evaluation can significantly influence the person's self-esteem. In this sense, socialization experi­ences can have an impact on the shaping of peo­ple's personalities. In everyday speech, the term personality is used to refer to a person's typical patterns of attitudes, needs, characteristics, and behavior.

This chapter will examine the role of socializa­tion in human development. It will begin by ana­lyzing the debate over the relative influence of heredity and environmental factors. Particular attention will be given to how people develop per­ceptions, feelings, and beliefs about themselves. The chapter will explore the lifelong nature of the socialization process as well as important agents of socialization, among them the family, schools, and the media. Finally, the social policy section will focus on day care for young children as a socialization experience.

THE ROLE OF SOCIALIZATION All researchers would agree that both biological inheritance and the processes of socialization play a role in human development. There is no con­sensus, however, regarding the relative impor­tance of these factors, which has led to what is called the nature versus nurture (or heredity versus environment) debate. We can more easily con­trast the impact of heredity and environment if we examine situations in which one factor oper­ates almost entirely without the other (Homans, 1979).

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