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Socialization

Unidirectional Models Of Socialization, Other Models Of Socialization, Conclusion


Socialization is not a process unique to childhood. According to the sociological theory known as symbolic interactionism, socialization is required for each new role an individual acquires over the life-course. Nevertheless, most of us generally understand socialization to mean the process of creating socially responsible beings out of primarily asocial beings—that is, infants and children (asocial in the sense that they are ignorant of the rules and roles of society and must acquire these over time). Socialization is considered to be more general than either enculturation or acculturation. Enculturation refers to the specific process of transmitting a particular culture from one generation to another (e.g., minority members of a society teaching their children about minority issues such as discrimination). Acculturation refers to the process of acquiring a new or different culture (e.g., as an immigrant to another country).

Several articles outline Western models of socialization. These include chapters by Gary Peterson and his colleagues (Peterson and Haan 1999; Peterson and Rollins 1987). First, what exactly do we mean by socialization? One component—probably the one most of us think of initially—is the process that "transforms a biological organism into a human being" (471). The other component is the process that "confronts adults with a new set of experiences and responsibilities" (471). Daphne Bugental and Jacqueline Goodnow (1998) defined socialization as "the continuous collaboration of 'elders' and 'novices'—of 'old hands' and 'newcomers' in the acquisition and honing of skills important for meeting the demands of group life" (389).

Ross Parke and John Buriel (1998) described socialization as "the process whereby an individual's standards, skills, motives, attitudes, and behaviors change to conform to those regarded as desirable and appropriate for his or her present and future role in any particular society" (463). Each of these definitions leaves open the possibility that adults, in addition to children, can be socialized into new roles and responsibilities. Thus, late twentieth century conceptions of socialization suggest that parents, as well as children, are socialized by others referred to as socialization agents.

There are many theories that address both the transition to parenthood and parental involvement, as well as the socialization of children (e.g., social learning, symbolic interactionism). There are, however, relatively few theoretical models that focus on the socialization of parents (e.g., Wapner 1993), despite the fact that parenthood has a powerful influence on the development of the adult, to say nothing of the child. Existing developmental models of parent socialization typically use conception or the birth of the child as the starting point in parental development. Furthermore, most approaches focus on parental-child relations in infancy, childhood, or adolescence, ignoring ongoing parent-child relations across the life-course (for an exception see Pillemer and McCartney 1991). The focus of this entry is primarily on socialization—both formal and informal—of children in different contexts, and in different countries around the world.


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Marriage and Family EncyclopediaPregnancy & Parenthood