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Unidirectional Models Of Socialization

Who are these agents—or forces—of socialization? Early twentieth century models of socialization ignored the fact that parents can be socialized, too, and only looked at the effects of parents on children. This approach is known as a parent-effects model (i.e., a unidirectional or one-way effects model from parent to child). This model of socialization stems from a mechanistic paradigm (e.g., Reese and Overton 1970), in which the individual is the unit of analysis. In particular, models of this kind focus on the parent as actor, or agent, and the child as reactor. Research conducted from this perspective follows the social mold tradition, in which parents are seen as the agents that mold children's behavior. The best example of research in this tradition is Diana Baumrind's (1971) typology of parenting styles—in which parent effects (i.e., parenting styles) determine child outcomes.

Parent effects. For much of the twentieth century, Western parenting theorists and researchers have focused primarily on two essential dimensions of parenting style: support (also known as warmth or acceptance) and control (Baumrind 1971; Peterson and Haan 1999). It is hypothesized that parenting style falls anywhere along the continuum of support, from low support of children to high support of children. At the same time, parenting style can also fall anywhere along the independent or orthogonal dimension of control, from low control to high control. Thus, parenting style can be categorized as low in support and control (i.e., permissive-neglecting); low in support but high in control (i.e., authoritarian); high in support but low in control (i.e., permissive-indulgent); or high in support and high in control (i.e., authoritative).

Research in the United States, cross-sectional and longitudinal, has consistently found that a parenting style high in both support and control (i.e., authoritative parenting) is associated with children's and adolescent's higher academic achievement and social competence (e.g., Peterson and Haan 1999). A permissive parenting style (i.e., permissive-neglecting or permissive-indulgent) is associated with children who are lower in both academic achievement and social competence, and higher in aggression or impulsiveness. These children may be either neglected by parents who are unwilling or unable to meet the developmental needs of their children, or spoiled by overly indulgent parents who cater to their children's wants instead of their needs. Finally, a parenting style low in support but high in control (i.e., authoritarian) is associated with lower academic achievement and social competence in children. As an extreme example of control, the use of corporal punishment, either at home or at school, is a hotly debated topic. Although many parents and teachers around the world follow religious and traditional dictums such as "spare the rod," and "an eye for an eye," corporal punishment of children is contrary to the International Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989), ratified by every country in the world except Somalia and the United States. Sweden, followed to date by eight other European countries and Israel, was the first country in the world to make spanking or other corporal punishment of children illegal in 1979. According to Swedish law, "Children are to be treated with respect for their person and individuality and may not be subjected to corporal punishment or any other humiliating treatment." Nevertheless, corporal punishment remains widespread in many homes and schools (e.g., Kenya; Human Rights Watch 1999) around the world.

Child effects. Richard Bell (1968), reacting against parent-effects models, suggested that children also influence parents. Thus, a unidirectional child-effects model (i.e., from child to parent) was developed. In this model of socialization, the child is the actor and the parent is the reactor. Children's individual differences in age, gender, and personalities can evoke different behaviors and treatment from parents in addition to other socialization agents. An example of research based in this tradition is Alexander Thomas and Stella Chess's (1977) classic work in child temperament. Children can be classified as easy, slow-to-warm-up, and difficult based on nine dimensions of temperament (e.g., activity level, emotional intensity), with easy children being the most compliant to parental requests and difficult children the least. Subsequently, many researchers have focused on qualities of infants and children that evoke different responses in parents, or different parental outcomes.

Of all the factors that influence how children are treated (e.g., temperament, health status, aptitude), gender is arguably the most salient. For example, in several South Asian countries, there is a clear preference for male children due to economic and religious factors (Khan and Khanum 2000). Strong preferences exist for sons in Bangladesh, China, India, Korea, and Pakistan, although no such preferences are found in Sri Lanka or Thailand (Abeykoon 1995). Parents view sons as economic assets (e.g., old-age security) and daughters as economic liabilities (e.g., dowries). Both Confucianism and Hinduism have been cited as religions that foster preferences for male offspring (Abeykoon 1995). In the Hindu tradition, only sons can pray for the souls of dead parents. Indicators of gender preference in South Asia include abnormal sex ratios at birth (i.e., more female fetuses aborted), and higher mortality rates for female offspring (e.g., infanticide, higher rates of malnutrition, less access to health care).

Gender inequality also exists in education, with the greatest gender disparity occurring in developing countries with overall low rates of enrollment. UNESCO tracks gender parity in education, with a goal of worldwide gender parity for the year 2005. Since 1980, gender disparity in education has widened not only in Afghanistan (i.e., under the Taliban regime, although this pattern would be expected to reverse now that the Taliban are no longer in power) but also in Pakistan. The countries with the worst record for gender parity in education are found primarily in sub-Saharan Africa (e.g., Chad, Guinea, and Senegal) and in the Arab states (e.g., Yemen and Sudan). In these countries, only six to eight girls are enrolled in primary school for every ten boys enrolled in primary school. Countries with a more moderate gap in gender disparity include Angola and Mozambique in sub-Saharan Africa, Iraq and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, China and Indonesia in South Asia, and Brazil and Guatemala in South and Central America, respectively.

Age is another factor that influences how children are socialized. Psychologists and anthropologists have concluded that the transition from informal parental socialization to more formal socialization (e.g., education) typically occurs during the period known as the 5-to-7 shift, which marks the end of young childhood and the beginning of middle childhood (Konner 1991). Among other things, changes in brain development (e.g., myelinization, or the coating of neurons with myelin sheaths, resulting in better motor coordination and memory) occur between the ages of two and six, paving the way for formal learning. Not surprisingly, UNICEF reports that, around the world, compulsory education begins between the ages of five (e.g., Barbados and United Kingdom) and seven (e.g., Ethiopia and Sweden).

Around fifteen years of age, adolescents are deemed ready to leave school to enter the work force as adults (i.e., compulsory education ends at age fourteen in Turkey, fifteen in Japan, sixteen in Canada). Addressing child labor, the International Labour Organization (ILO) has set the General Minimum Age for full-time labor participation at age fifteen, or not less than compulsory school age. In highly industrialized societies, which require longer periods of education and training, adolescents often attend post-secondary institutions for anywhere from two years (i.e., a two-year diploma) to four years (i.e., a four-year degree), and in some cases for several additional years (for graduate degrees, e.g., M.S., Ph.D.). Educational demands of technological societies are so high, that at least one researcher proposed an additional stage of the life cycle: Emerging adulthood (age eighteen to twenty-five)—a period distinct from both adolescence and young adulthood—which entails on-going formal socialization (Arnett 2000).

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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & ParenthoodSocialization - Unidirectional Models Of Socialization, Other Models Of Socialization, Conclusion