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Other Models Of Socialization

According to Western researchers and theorists, unidirectional models of socialization are not comprehensive enough, in that such models are too simplistic and do not explain enough of the variance in outcome variables. Instead, parent-child socialization is sometimes explained using a bidirectional-effects model. Effects go both ways in a reciprocal manner—from parent to child and from child to parent. This bidirectional, or twoway, model of socialization stems from an organismic paradigm (e.g., Reese and Overton 1970). From this perspective, child and parent interact in a dance of socialization with neither one nor the other the actor/reactor. Instead, child and parent act on each other and react to each other in a mutual, synchronous interaction. Rather than the individual as the unit of analysis, the parent-child dyad is the unit of analysis.

Interactional models. Examples of research based in this tradition include Mary Ainsworth's (1989) work on maternal sensitivity and child attachment (i.e., close emotional tie or bond between a child and caregiver). Ainsworth first observed mothers interacting with their babies in England, then in Uganda, and finally in the United States. It was while she was working in Uganda in the 1950s that she noticed that some children seemed to be more securely attached to their mothers than other children were. She also noticed that whereas some mothers were sensitive and responsive to the needs of their children, others were not. On her return to the United States, Ainsworth began to systematically study the relationship between mother's behavior and children's style of attachment. Ainsworth and her colleagues (1978) developed the strange situation test, a series of short episodes in which babies are alternatively left and rejoined by their mothers.

Babies' style of attachment could be determined based on their reactions to the separation and reunion episodes. Babies who were upset when their mother left, but settled down when she returned, were classified as having a secure attachment. Babies who were upset on separation from their mother, and who could not seem to settle down again on her return, were classified as having an insecure-resistant attachment. Finally, babies who were not particularly upset by separation from their mother, and did not seek contact with her on her return, were classified as having an insecure-avoidant attachment. A fourth category on attachment has also been documented: insecure-disorganized attachment, in which children seem fearful of their mother and show contradictory behavior toward her (Main and Solomon 1990). Ainsworth concluded that caregivers who were sensitive and responsive had children who were securely attached, whereas insensitive and unresponsive caregivers had children who were insecurely attached.

Although most children worldwide appear to have secure attachments to their caregivers (65%), cross-cultural research indicates some interesting differences (van IJzendoorn and Kroonenberg 1988). British babies are the most likely to be securely attached (75%), with Chinese babies the least likely to be securely attached (50%). With regard to insecure-avoidant attachment, German babies are the most likely (35%) and Japanese babies the least likely (5%) to show this pattern of attachment. Insecure-resistant attachment tends to be more likely among Israeli babies (29%) and less likely among Swedish babies (4%). Cultural differences, such as an emphasis on independence in Germany, for example, may account for some of these reported differences. Nevertheless, the strange situation test may not be an appropriate or ecologically valid measure of attachment across cultures.

Multidirectional models. Theorists have argued that even bidirectional models of socialization are not complex enough. Multidirectional-effects models were developed to explain child and parent outcomes within an ecological context. These multidirectional-effects models stem from a contextual paradigm (e.g., Reese 1991), in which child and parent interact over time and within familial, societal, and historical contexts. From this perspective, factors beyond the parent-child dyad affect both individual and dyadic outcomes. In these models, the system (e.g., the family) is the usual unit of analysis. Examples of theories based in this perspective include Urie Bronfenbrenner's (1979) ecological model and family systems theory. Research conducted using this approach includes studies on the effect of the marital relationship on the parent-child dyad, the workplace on the parent's relationship with the child, or the society on both child and parent (e.g., Parke and Buriel 1998).

One of the essential ways in which children are socialized into adult roles is by means of compulsory education, followed in many cases by job training or higher education. Although education and labor participation are clearly related in a developmental sense (education first, then work), they can interfere with each other. For the most part, involvement in one (e.g., education) precludes involvement in the other (e.g., labor). Thus, children and adolescents are primarily involved in education, and young and middle-aged adults are typically involved in labor, either in or outside the home. (Although many older adults cannot afford to retire, some financially secure older adults use retirement as an opportunity to return to educational pursuits such as Elderhostel, an educational program for older adults interested in life-long learning.)

Exceptions to compulsory school attendance are found in disadvantaged families and countries. Homeless families or those living in poverty may not be able to afford to send children to school (e.g., books, uniforms, transportation) and may rely on the income of their school-aged children for the household. Thus, extreme poverty interferes with the progression of education/labor participation typically found in industrialized countries. According to the ILO, between 1 and 200 million children worldwide are estimated to be child laborers (children under the age of fifteen who work full-time), with the worst forms of child labor including child slavery (i.e., forced labor) and child prostitution. Children around the world also work as child soldiers, child domestics, and child farm workers. In addition to the danger, pain, and stress associated with child labor, working keeps these children from attending school and reaching their potential.

As previously mentioned, most cultures around the world assign some degree of responsibility to children during the 5-to-7 shift. Anthropologists have examined children's responsibilities as a function of the type of society the child inhabits (e.g., Konner 1991). Responsibility given to children takes primarily two forms: instruction and chores. Children in hunter-gatherer societies such as the !Kung are assigned neither formal instruction nor chores. Instead, they spend most of middle childhood not only tagging along and observing adults at their work, but also playing and socializing (Konner 1991). In agricultural societies, where families often rely on the labor of their children, formal task assignment is the typical pattern, sometimes in the form of an apprenticeship (e.g., Ghana, Mexico). Industrial societies, because of the demands of the labor market, typically assign formal instruction to children (i.e., compulsory education) for anywhere from five (e.g., Cuba, Vietnam) to twelve years (e.g., Belgium, Germany).

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