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  Socialization is the term used by sociologists and anthropologists to refer to the process by which a individual member of a society acquires its culture. Through the process of socialization culture is passed on from generation to generation and new members of a society learn appropriate ways of behaving. An important aspect of culture that is passed on through socialization is language.

An infant is not born instinctively knowing how to behave in a given society; this has to be learnt. Without socialization, an individual would bear little resemblance to any human being defined as normal by the standards of society. It is reported that the Indian emperor Akbar (who ruled from 1542 to 1602), ordered a group of children be brought up without any instruction in language, to test the belief that they would eventually speak Hebrew, the language of God. The children were raised by deaf mutes. They developed no spoken language and communicated solely by gestures.

It is through socialization that individual members of a society acquire the social norms (rules and guidelines which direct conduct in a number of situations, for example, norms governing dress) and values (more generalized notions of what is important and worthwhile) of that society. Socialization also provides guidelines for behaviour considered appropriate for certain social roles (for instance, parenthood or spouse). A number of agencies of socialization can be identified: the family, peer relationships, school, the mass media, and work. In all cultures it is the family which is the principal socializing agency of the child during infancy. Formal schooling diminishes the influence of the family. In school the child is deliberately taught skills and knowledge but much more is learnt besides via the ‘hidden curriculum’. The development of mass communications has greatly extended the range of socializing agencies. Television exerts a particularly powerful influence.

Socialization continues throughout the life cycle. Three forms of socialization are distinguished by sociologists: primary, secondary, and adult socialization. Primary socialization refers to the socialization of the young child within the family; secondary socialization refers to the socialization that occurs once a child enters school; and adult socialization relates to the fact that socialization is a process which continues throughout adult life as new roles and situations are encountered.

In some circumstances, involving a marked alteration in the social environment of an individual or group, people may undergo processes of resocialization—in prisons, concentration camps or religious sects for example.

Since the cultural setting into which one is born comes to influence one\'s behaviour it would be easy to assume that there is no room for individuality or free will in society. Within sociology some have written about socialization as if society placed its members into a pre-set mould; but they have been accused of treating people as if they were merely puppets with ‘society’ pulling the strings. Others have pointed out that it is through socialization that we are able to develop a sense of self-identity, and the capacity for independent thought and action. DA

See also assimilation; consensus theory; ethnicity; gender; generalized other; internalization; role; sexuality; social integration; social self; society; sociobiology; sociolinguistics; structure-agency debate; subculture.Further reading K. Danziger, Socialization; , C. Jenks (ed.), The Sociology of Childhood.



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