Impacts of Political Socialization on Political Behaviour


Impacts of Political Socialization on Political Behaviour

This article discusses the impacts of political socialization on political behavior; that is how people behave, the totality of their dominant attitudes, values and orientation in the day to day relationship of individuals and groups with their political environment. 

As asserted in the earlier 8 major agents of political socialization, the family and the school are the principal agents of political socialization in the modern world, and they are the ones specifically isolated for discussion and analysis in this post.

However, while using the socialization in the family and the school to assess political behavior of individuals and groups, we do not underrate the other agents of socialization. School and family are just used as models, so, students should, in their personal studies, apply the peer group, religious institutions, age, race, etc for analysis, using similar methods.

Table of content

At the end of this article you are expected to gain the knowledge of:

(a) The relationship between political socialization and the behavior of people towards politics.

(b) How the family and the school socialization specifically affect people’s political behavior

Read On: Definitions and Forms of Political Culture

Patterns of Socialization in the Family

There are several ways in which patterns of socialization in the family can influence political behavior exhibited by children who are raised in that family. Some four of these ways are authority patterns, socio-economic status (SES), civic orientations or knowledge, and political participation patterns all in the family.

In what follows we offer detailed discussion of these four factors.

(a) Authority Patterns in the Family

The individual's predisposition to participate in, or withdraw from politics may be influenced by his early relationship with his parents. In a family situation where authority is dispersed, where there is warmth between the child and his parents, and where disciplinary control is more liberal, flexible and permissive, where children are encouraged to engage in debate and analysis of issues before important decisions are taken, offspring and other members of the family will ideally turn out active in politics. They are more likely to engage authorities, query facts, policies and decisions, and, in short, operate with a high sense of political efficacy: the degree to which an individual feels he can influence or determine political decisions.

Children raised in a liberal family environment will tend to develop either transitional or gladiatorial participant attitudes (these shall be discuss under political participation); not likely to be spectatorial.

Conversely, however, a family setting where authority is concentrated in one person (usually the father), where there is no closeness or warmth between the child and his parents, and where disciplinary patterns are extremely severe, the child may become too subservient, too passive and too psychologically insecure in life. Scientifically speaking, such child is most likely to grow up as a conservative being. He or she sees whatever the people in authority do as final and may not have any effrontery to challenge it. His political participation is likely to e spectatorial, his ideology conservative and his attitude either docility or mere endorsement.

(b) Family’s' Socio-Economic Status (SES) The socio economic condition of the family as a socializing agent contributes to children’s ultimate political behavior. People of high socio economic status often tend to be more active and prominent in politics because in most cases they would have conquered hunger and most material deprivations, so, they have enough time to sit, theorize and query issues around them.

The lower-status people, on the other hand, are often preoccupied with resolving material contradictions and other basic needs in their lives, so, they have little time to sit and think ablaut politics. Justin Labinjoh captures this class dimension to political behavior when he declared that “socio economic circumstances always constrain members of various classes to relate differentially to the social structure,” and that such has “implications for individual dramaturgical skills and therefore for the individual's perception of social reality”

Moreover, because children from higher status families are in a better position to benefit from other socializing institutions such as the mass media and elite schools which encourage civic or participant attitudes, at least compared to children of poorer parents, the political behavior of the former tends to be proactive.

In addition, socio economic condition greatly influences authority patterns in the family, to the extent that liberal child-rearing practices tend to characterize higher status families, while authoritarian practices tend to typify lower-status families. As a result of this, people from higher status backgrounds may be better disposed psychologically and normatively to participate in politics than those from lower backgrounds.

(c) Family’s Civic Knowledge and Orientations

The dominant knowledge of politics or overall orientation towards socio political events in a family often carries serious weight in how offspring of the family are socialized. Politically conscious or ideologically deep parents may are more likely to encourage the discussion of politics in their homes, and by so doing they increase the interests and understanding of politics in their children and other people living and around the family.

(d) Family’s Political Involvement or Participation

Biographical accounts of famous political leaders are full of instances of children who have followed in their parents' footsteps by becoming very active politicians because an intensely politicized family atmosphere stimulates activist tendencies or attitudes in the offspring in the family. Consequently, offspring in politically active families eventually turn out as activists themselves; a situation made possible through a principle of social learning called imitation. A good example is that of the Nigerian musician/political activist called Fela Anikulapo Kuti whose counter cultural and anti-establishment political disposition was largely imitated from the activities of his mother and father. At this point you may want to read about social learning principles and theories, especially that of Albert Bandura. The 2011 University of Lagos doctoral dissertation of Eesuola Olukayode, as supervised by Professor Remi Anifowose also promises to be a useful source of how the family socializes people into certain pattern of political behaviour. So, this part of the unit has identified how socialization patterns in the family, especially the issues concerning authority patterns, socio-economic status, civic knowledge and political involvement influence political behaviour of people.

Socialization in the School and its Effects on Political Behaviour

Apart from the family, the educational system of a country plays an important role in the inculcation of attitudes and values that can shape the nature and degree of people’s political behaviour in the society. This is where the school comes in. The relationships between the school authorities and students, the pattern of relations among the students themselves, the content of civic courses and the general organization and administration of the school system all play significant roles in implanting or inhibiting certain attitudes and dispositions of people towards politics.

In two specific ways this can be done:

(a) Content of Curriculum

A school where civic education, politics, political history or subjects of revolution cuts across classes and levels of learning is likely to socialize students into a more active political behaviour; vice versa. In like manner, if, instead of the foregoing subjects, students are generally thought religiosity and doctrines under the guise of mission schools for instance, it is not unlikely to socialize students into dogmatic and conservative political attitudes. Formal learning in schools, in the forms of cognitive engagement of students, affects the political behaviour of students who school there.

(b) Dimensions of Extra Curricular Activities

Another major means by which the educational system can tangentially influence students’ political behaviour is through involvement in school activities, particularly at the secondary and, or tertiary levels. Secondary schools that have organizations such as the press club, literary and debating society, as well as para military organizations such as Man o War will often periodically discuss issues of and around politics. Selection of prefects in the school can also be made through free and fair elections. In tertiary institutions also, activities such as students unionism, faculty and departmental associations as well as membership of special committees can also greatly combine to influence the political behaviour of students therein, compared to a university where all these are not permitted to occur. In essence, involvement in school activities can be an important influence on the individual's subsequent political behaviour at the larger strata of the society.

Read On: What is Political Participation? - Definition, Forms & Examples in Nigeria

Conclusion on Impacts of Political Socialization on Political Behaviour

Let us conclude with a reminder that other agents of political socialization discussed in this booklet, the mass media, religious groups, political parties, age and gender; as well as others not discussed: race, occupational groups and government agencies also play an important role in influencing an individual's dispositions attitudes and behavior towards politics.

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