Definition, Meaning, Agents, Types, Characteristics and Importance of Socialization


Definition, Meaning, Agents,  Types,  Characteristics Importance and of Socialization

Definition and Meaning of Socialization

Learning the way of life, attitudes, and values of a social group, community, or culture. Socialization is essential for the development of individuals who can participate and function within their societies, as well as for ensuring that a society's cultural features will be carried on through new generations. Socialization is most strongly enforced by family, school, and peer groups and continues throughout an individual's lifetime.

Socialization is a processes with the help of which a living organism is changed into a social being. It is a process through which the younger generation learns the adult role which it has to play subsequently. It is a continuous process in the life of an individual and it continues from generation to generation.

The newborn is merely an organism. Socialization makes him responsive to the society. He is socially active. He becomes a ‘Purush’ and the culture that his group inculcates in him, humanizes him, and makes him ‘Manusha’. The process indeed, is endless. The cultural pattern of his group, in the process gets incorporated in the personality of a child. It prepares him to fit in the group and to perform the social roles. It sets the infant on the line of social order and enables an adult to fit into the new group. It enables man to adjust himself to the new social order.

Socialization stands for the development of the human brain, body, attitude, behavior and so forth. Socialization is known as the process of inducting the individual into the social world. The term socialization refers to the process of interaction through which the growing individual learns the habits, attitudes, values and beliefs of the social group into which he has been born.

From the point of view of society, socialization is the way through which society transmits its culture from generation to generation and maintains itself. From the point of view of the individual, socialization is the process by which the individual learns social behavior, develops his ‘self.

The process operates at two levels, one within the infant which is called the internalization of objects around and the other from the outside. Socialization may be viewed as the internalization of social norms. Social rules become internal to the individual, in the sense that they are self-imposed rather than imposed by means of external regulation and are thus part of individual’s own personality.The individual therefore feels an urge to conform.

Secondly, it may be viewed as essential element of social interaction. In this case, individuals become socialized as they act in accordance with the expectations of others. The underlying process of socialization is bound up with social interaction.

Socialization is a comprehensive process. According to Horton and Hunt, Socialization is the process whereby one internalizes the norms of his groups, so that a distinct ‘self emerges, unique to this individual.

Socialization is a continuous and life long process till to the end of life. An individual learns language, culture, values, norms, attitudes and behaviors which molds his/her personality and becomes a social-being. This is the only process which a person develops his/her personality and self when an individual interacts with other members of his/her family and community or groups. Individual learns more about culture and they transmit these norms to the next generation. Family is important to the socialization process because their parents affect a child personality a lot. Parents are the source of social indemnity of their children.

Below are the some important definitions of socialization by well known sociological philosophers:

a) The life long process by which as individual becomes the proper member of society and develops human characteristics (DMacionis).

b) It is a learning process in which groups interact and learn social norms also develop his/her self (Horton and Hunt).

c) It is the process of learning the norms of the group and society (Ogburn) 

d) It is the process through which social beings develops relationships and association with each other (Maciver)

e) A process of learning to live and work together is called socialization (Bogardus).


Agents of Socialization

Socialization can occur outside of these agents but society relies on these agents doing most of the socialization. There's nothing "official" about these agents, at least not in our society. Totalitarian societies attempt to establish official agents of socialization but in a democratic society no government agency licenses or certifies them.

Our society relies on four major agents of socialization:

a)   Family

b)  Media

c)   Peers

d)  School



The family is the earliest and without question the most influential agent of socialization. It grabs the child at birth, when the child is most helpless and dependent, and does not let go for a whole lifetime. Socialization via the family goes from cradle to grave.

Foundation for all civilized behavior: ƒ

Language abilities (example, learning to talk) ƒ

Body control for (example, toilet training)

Emotional control (example do not hit your sister) ƒ

Rules of public conduct (example, do not throw food) ƒ

Moral values (example, lying is a sin)

Access to the emotional bond between parent and child, an extremely strong and effective socializing mechanism. Lifetime impacts affecting the person's self-esteem, emotional health, identity, and personality.

•Origin point of gender roles (masculine and feminine behavior; fundamental division of the social world into men and women).

•Origin point of ethnocentricism and racism (racial and ethnic prejudice).

•Source of original social capital that determines life chances. ƒ

Social capital - resources useful for gaining advantages in life; includes such things as family and friendship networks, community schools, family's social class background, technology available in home or school, etc. ƒ

Life chances - probability of achieving the "good things" in life, such as, health, wealth, happiness, security, power, etc.

The amazing power of the family as an agent of socialization comes from a combination of two factors:

1. The family has almost exclusive control of the person during the first years of life and preeminent control during the childhood and adolescent years.

Preeminent control - Cultural norms and the law recognize the parent's right to determine what is best for their children as trumping the rights of almost any institution 2. Parent-child emotional bond motivates the child to be socialized and the parents to do the difficult, messy job of socialization.

Being socialized is difficult and painful. What's better than the uninhibited, self-centered, and dependent life of the child?

Think about toilet training (although not for too long). Urinating and bowel movements whenever and wherever is certainly easier than learning to hold it until reaching a bathroom.

Think about anger and aggression. Isn't it better to lash out and hit someone immediately if make you angry rather than learning to hold your anger, talk, be nice, compromise, etc.?

Why would children put up with being socialized?

As if they had a choice! The child's dependent situation and emotional attachment to parents motivates the child to be socialized.

• Without adults, human children are very vulnerable, largely helpless. They could not survive without adults so the loss of parental support is very scary, perhaps life threatening. Such anxiety is very motivating.

• Built into the human animal is a basic love bond between parent and child. Children want to please their parents. They want their parents love, support, and affection. Anything that seems to threaten that emotional bond is very scary. Such anxiety is very motivating.

Socialization uses that dependency and emotional bond to motivate children to put up with the difficult demands of socialization and open themselves up to the lessons being taught by their parents.

For parents socialization is no picnic. You could not pay people enough to do the job. It's messy, difficult, demanding, and often frustrating.

It's a 24 hour / 7 days a week / 365 weeks a year job, with no vacations, lousy pay, hours, and work conditions, and no benefits. Why would anybody do it?

Because they love their children. Socialization uses that love bond to motivate adults to take on and persist in the difficult job of socializing children. The power of the family is strongest during infancy and toddler years. After that the media, then peers, and finally school challenges its exclusive access to the child. By later childhood the family's power as a socialization agent has weakened considerably.

In the adolescent years that power is further weakened by peer group influences and the predominance of the media in teenage subculture. Overall there has been an historical trend of the family's power as an agent of socialization being steadily eroded by the media, peer subculture, and schooling. The family returns as a predominant agent of socialization during the adult years with the roles of marital partner and parent.




• Television

• Radio

• Movies

• Music

• Books, magazines, etc.

•Internet Somewhere around the age of two or three, children in our society first encounter the media as an agent of socialization in the form of TV. Socialization comes through from children's shows, cartoons, and, most especially, commercials.

Socialization comes through the characters, images, words, and narrative story lines. Some media specifically acts to be an agent of socialization (e.g., children's programs such as Sesame Street) but most only strive to be entertainment.

Today the media seriously challenges the family. Children spend as much or more time in front of the TV as interacting with parents. Messages and values carried by the media are powerful and seductive. Many of those messages and values challenge or directly contradict what parent's teach their children.

Media influence continues and strengthens in adolescence based on a merger of teen subculture, pop culture (music & movies), and corporate marketing. Sports, increasingly a branch of marketing, become especially influential for teenage boys. The internet (web pages, e-mail, chat rooms) have emerged as another media source important to teens, again especially boys.

The power of the media declines in adult years but still remains strong. Pop culture continues strong but loses its subculture support. Sports and the internet continue as agents of socialization, especially for males. News (both TV and print) emerge as new agent of socialization in the adult years. 



Peers are people of roughly the same age (same stage of development and maturity), similar social identity, and close social proximity. They're friends, buddies, pals, troops, etc. Typically, children encounter peer group influence around age three or so. Usually these are neighbors, family members, or day care mates. With peers, the child begins to broaden his or her circle of influence to people outside of the immediate family. Often peer interaction in the earliest years is closely supervised by parents so it tends to parallel and reinforce what is learned in the family.

What is added to socialization, even in these closely supervised situations, are social skills in group situation with social equals? Before this time children basically dealt with people in a superior position. As childhood progresses, peer group interactions become more autonomous (less observed and supervised by adults).

The lessons learned also progress from basic rules of group interaction to more complex strategies of negotiation, dominance, leadership, cooperation, compromise, etc. These lessons are learned first in play and later through games. Peers also establish the platform for children to begin challenging the dominant power of parents and family.

In adolescence, peer group relationships become extremely important, rising up to directly challenge the family. In direct alliance with the media, teenage peers form their own subculture. They learn how to navigate the complexities and nuances of group interaction largely without adult guidance or supervision.

Peer group socialization also becomes linked to puberty and the all important role of sexuality and sexual relations in life. Peer groups are where teens largely learn about sex and being sexual and practice the skills of sexuality. Paralleling this, the gender role socialization begun in the family is extended, deepened, and reinforced. In the adult years the demands of work and family overwhelm most peer group relations and the influence of peers seriously declines as an agent of socialization, only to return during the elderly years.



Traditionally around seven years old the child enters the school system in the first grade. Today the process often starts earlier in Kindergarten or day care.

Socialization takes three forms in school:

Official curriculum

What the school system and its teachers announce as their content and goal.

It includes the knowledge & skills learned in English, math, history, etc. The school is the official place where our society transmits it accumulated knowledge and skills from one generation to next. It's also the place where we officially pass on our cultural values, tradition, and heritage, at least the "official" heritage. This curriculum often reinforces but what was learned in the family but it can also challenge family socialization (example, teaching values of tolerance to a child from a racist family)

Social curriculum

This is learning social behavior appropriate for peer groups that are not friendship groups, which then become the model for secondary group interactions. Many of the skills learned in peer groups are transferable but now the child learns to communicate, negotiate, dominate, etc. with peers outside of their immediate social circle, often from diverse social backgrounds.

In many ways this social curriculum reinforces and deepens gender role socialization started in the family and continued in the peer group. By middle school and high school, teens have largely learned the social curriculum. It is replaced more and more by peer social interaction in the hallways, in the parking lot, under the bleachers, etc. and broadens away from general group interaction to interaction in sexualized situations. In additionally, adolescence is introduced to the social curriculum through organized sports.

Hidden curriculum

This is learning the rules of behavior need to function in formally organized groups. It includes such behavior maxims as:

• Don't talk when the teacher is talking

• Get your assignments in on time

• Not all teachers have the same rules for their class

• When a teacher tells another student to stop talking, it is not a good idea to start talking to your neighbor since the teacher has already expressed disapproval of that action.

It includes positive reinforcement for such values as:

• Precision

• Self-reliance

• Competitiveness

• Obedience

As preparation for the adult world of formal organization and workplace authority, the hidden curriculum stresses such things as formalization and standardization, following instructions, obedience to authority figures that are not Mom and Dad, learning to control behavior and fit into the group, pleasing (even manipulating) authority figures, and working in teams.



·       Religion

·       Work Place

·       The State

·       Military


Types of Socialization

Socialization is the learning process wherein we develop our personality through adapting another person`s culture.

Human infants are born without any culture yet. When a baby is born, socialization takes place in order for him to have a culture based on what his parents and his environment would teach him. So what exactly is socialization?

Socialization is the process of knowing another person`s culture and learning how to live within it. When we talk about culture, we are referring to the totality of moral norms, values, language, attitudes and other aspects comprising a society. All of us have roles to accomplish within our society, and socialization helps us to harbor knowledge and skills to satisfy these societal role

Socialization is an important part of the process of personality formation in every individual. It is true that genetics is the reason behind the structure of human personality, but socialization is the one that causes this personality to be molded to specific directions through the process of accepting or rejecting beliefs, attitudes and societal norms. Because of the dynamics in socialization, we tend to have different personalities although we are living in the same society. For example, the Yanomamo Indians living on the border area between Brazil and Venezuela tend to train the younger generation of boys to become aggressive and strong. On the other hand, the Semai tribe living on the central Malay Peninsula in Malaysia does not like violence and hostility. This is why the younger generation of boys is trained to become gentle and peace-loving.

Generally, there are five (5) Types of Socialization:

1. Primary Socialization

2. Secondary Socialization

3. Developmental Socialization

4. Anticipatory Socialization

5. Re-socialization Socialization

1. Primary Socialization: This type of socialization happens when a child learns the values, norms and behaviors that should be displayed in order to live accordingly to a specific culture. Example: A child hears his father talk bad words against an old lady. The child would think that this behavior is socially acceptable, so he would start talking bad words against older people.

2. Secondary Socialization: This type of socialization occurs when a person learns an appropriate behavior to be displayed within a smaller group which is still part of a larger society. The changes within the values, attitudes and beliefs of an individual are seen to be less important than the changes made in him as he participates in the larger society. Example: A high school graduate chooses a career in Business Management after participating in a small group career seminar led by college business majors.

3. Developmental Socialization: This type of socialization involves a learning process wherein the focus in on developing our social skills. Example: A shy senior high school student starts to teach English to new freshmen students in order to develop verbal communication.

4. Anticipatory socialization: This type of socialization refers to the process wherein a person practices or rehearses for future social relationships. Example: A child anticipates parenthood as he observes his parents perform their daily roles.

5. Re-socialization: This type of socialization involves rejecting previous behavior patterns and accepting new ones so the individual can shift from one part of his life to another. Re-socialization is said to be happening throughout human life cycle.


Characteristics  of Socialization

Socialization not only helps in the maintenance and preservation of social values and norms but it is the process through which values and norms are transmitted from one generation to another generation.

Below are some basic features of socialization

1. Inculcates basic discipline

2. Helps to control human behavior

3. Socialization is rapid if there is more humanity among the- agencies of socialization

4. Socialization takes place formally and informally

5. Socialization is continuous process


1. Inculcates basic discipline: Socialization inculcates basic discipline. A person learns to control his impulses. He may show a disciplined behavior to gain social approval.

2. Helps to control human behavior: It helps to control human behavior. An individual from birth to death undergoes training and his, behavior is controlled by numerous ways. In order to maintain the social order, there are definite procedures or mechanism in society. These procedures become part of the man’s/life and man gets adjusted to the society. Through socialization, society intends to control the behavior of its-members unconsciously.

3. Socialization is rapid if there is more humanity among the- agencies of socialization: Socialization takes place rapidly if the agencies’ of socialization are more unanimous in their ideas and skills. When there is conflict between the ideas, examples and skills transmitted in home and those transmitted by school or peer, socialization of the individual tends to be slower and ineffective.

4. Socialization takes place formally and informally: Formal socialization takes through direct instruction and education in schools and colleges. Family is, however, the primary and the most influential source of education. Children learn their language, customs, norms and values in the family.

5. Socialization is continuous process: Socialization is a life-long process. It does not cease when a child becomes an adult. As socialization does not cease when a child becomes an adult, internalization of culture continues from generation to generation. Society perpetuates itself through the internalization of culture. Its members transmit culture to the next generation and society continues to exist.


Importance of Socialization

The process of socialization is important from the point of view of society as well as from the point of view of individual. Every society is faced with the necessity of making a responsible member out of each child born into it. The child must learn the expectations of the society so that his behavior can be relied upon.

He must acquire the group norms in order to take the behavior of others into account. Socialization means transmission of culture, the process by which men learn the rules and practices of social groups to which belongs. It is through it that a society maintains its social system, transmits its culture from generation to generation.

From the point of view of the individual, socialization is the process by which the individual learns social behavior, develops his self. Socialization plays a unique role in personality development of the individual.

It is the process by which the new born individual, as he grows up, acquires the values of the group and is molded into a social being. Without this no individual could become a person, for if the values, sentiments and ideas of culture are not joined to the capacities and needs of the human organism there could be no human mentality, no human personality.

The child has no self. The self emerges through the process of socialization. The self, the core of personality, develops out of the child’s interaction with others.

In the socialization process the individual learns the culture as well as skills, ranging from language to manual dexterity which will enable him to become a participating member of human society.

Socialization inculcates basic disciplines, ranging from toilet habits to method of science. In his early years, individual is also socialized with regard to sexual behavior.

Society is also concerned with imparting the basic goals, aspirations and values to which the child is expected to direct his behavior for the rest of his life. He learns-the levels to which he is expected to aspire.

Socialization teaches skills. Only by acquiring needed skills individual fit into a society. In simple societies, traditional practices are handed down from generation to generation and are usually learned by imitation and practice in the course of everyday life. Socialization is indeed an intricate process in a complex society characterized by increasing specialization and division of work. In these societies, inculcating the abstract skills of literacy through formal education is a central task of socialization.

Another element in socialization is the acquisition of the appropriate social roles that the individual is expected to play. He knows role expectations, that is what behavior and values are a part of the role he will perform. He must desire to practice such behavior and pursue such ends.

Role performance is very important in the process of socialization. As males, females, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, parents, children, student’s teachers and so on, accepted social roles must be learned if the individual is to play a functional and predictable part in social interaction.

In this way man becomes a person through the social influences which he shares with others and through his own ability to respond and weave his responses into a unified body of habits, attitudes and traits. But man is not the product of socialization alone. He is also, in part, a product of heredity. He generally possesses the inherited potential that can make him a person under conditions of maturation and conditioning.




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