Socialization, the process of acquiring the social norms, cultural values and behavior patterns of a particular community, is an integral part of the personality formation. Every society resembles a living organism, in which the old cells perish and the new cells appear. Every day new people are born and learn to conform to the rules and norms, existing in their community, since early childhood. All the cells are closely interrelated and the vital activity of the whole organism depends on the functioning of every separate cell.
Socialization is realized in the process of the verbal and nonverbal interactions with other people. Sociologists single out two types of socialization:
- Primary or initial socialization (accepting the norms and behavior patterns by a child);
- Secondary socialization (adopting the norms and behavior patterns by an adult) (Primary and secondary socialization).
Socialization is represented with the combination of the agents and institutions, forming, directing, stimulating and restricting the personality development. The agents of socialization are the particular people responsible for teaching the cultural norms and social values. The agents can be primary (parents, grandparents, siblings, close friends etc.) and secondary (the university administration, managers at work, mass media representatives etc.). Primary agents have the most vivid impact on the personality formation. The term “secondary” is applied to those, whose influence on a person is less vivid. The institutes of socialization, in their turn, are the organizations, influencing and directing the socialization process. As well as the agents, the institutes can be primary (family, school etc.) and secondary (government, church, mass media etc.) (Primary and secondary socialization).
The process of socialization consists of several stages:
- The adaptation stage (after a child was born and till the juvenile age). This stage is characterized by the uncritical adopting of the social experience, mostly, through the imitation.
- The identification stage, characterized by the desire to be singled out from others.
- The integration stage – introduction to the society life. This process can cause difficulties for some people and sometimes even lead to inner conflicts and anxiety.
- The labor stage. In this period people reproduce the social experience and actively influence the surroundings.
- The “postlabour” stage (elderly age). A distinct feature of this phase is the transmission of the social experience to next generations (Hodges Persell).
Erik Erikson (1902 - 1994) defined the following stages of person’s socialization (Erik Erikson’s Eight Stages of Development):
- Infancy (till a child is 1.5 years old). Mother plays the leading role in the child’s life during this period. She feeds the child, provides it with care and tenderness. As a result, the initial trust to the world is formed in the child’s mind. The dynamics of the trust evolution depends on the mother. The lack of emotional communication between the mother and the child often leads to the retardation in the psychological development of the child.
- Early childhood (from 1.5 to 4 years). This stage is associated with the establishment of the primary independence and autonomy. The child learns to stand on his feet and control the expression of his basic needs. Adults cultivate tidiness and neatness in children.
- Childhood from 4 to 6 years. At this stage the child is sure that he is a personality as he can run, talk, expands his knowledge of the surrounding world. Games lay down the foundation of creative thinking and initiative and thus play an extremely important role in the child’s development. Through the game the kids improve their psychological abilities: will, memory, attention. If the parents neglect the child, underestimate the importance of playing, it negatively impacts the development of the child, leads to the child’s passivity and indifference.
- Early school age (from 6 to 11 years). At this stage the child has already fully used the opportunities for development within the framework of the family, and now the school plays the main role in his social and cultural development. If the pupil successfully masters the subjects, he is confident and calm. Failures, in their turn, make the child feel inferior and lead to the loss of interest to education.
- Adolescence (from 11 to 20 years). The central form of the ego-identity is formed at this stage. Active physiological growth, puberty, the anxiousness about his looks, the necessity to determine his professional calling – these are the questions young people face with. The society’s demands for self-identification noticeably influence the personality in this period.
- Youth (from 21 to 25 years). The following issues become important at this stage: the search for a life partner, cooperation with people, the strengthening of connections with the social group. The person gets rid of the fear of losing his individuality; he mingles his identity with the other people. The feelings of belonging, intimacy, unanimity and cooperation with people come to the forefront.
- Maturity (from 25 to 55 years). This period is characterized by the constant identity development, the considerable influence of the others, especially children: they confirm that you are necessary.
- Retirement (more than 55). At this stage, the establishment of the completed form of the ego-identity takes place. The person reconsiders the whole life experience, shows wisdom, detached interest to life.
The following factors, influencing the person’s socialization, can be singled out:
- Biological inheritance;
- Physical surroundings;
- Culture, social surroundings;
- Group experience.
- Individual experience (Hodges Persell).
It should be pointed out that the socialization patterns also depend on the person’s gender. Boys and girls are expected to react and behave differently. In some conservative cultures the difference between boys’ and girls’ upbringing is sharp, while other countries tend to be more liberal in this matter (Gender Socialization).
The socialization process continues during the whole life, but it is especially intensive in youth. That is the time when the basis of the spiritual development is laid down. It increases the significance of the quality of the upbringing and the responsibility of the society. The society sets the definite frame of reference of the upbringing process, which includes the formation of the worldview, based on the general morality norms and spiritual values; the fostering of creative thinking, high social activity, purposefulness, the ability to work as a part of a team; the constant need for self-education and self-improvement etc. A healthy society should also cultivate the ability to find the reasonable solution in case of life hardships and unusual situations; independence in decision making; the respect of the laws; social responsibility; the feeling of inner freedom and reasonable self-esteem.
The successful adoption of the similar norms by all the members within one society is a guarantee of the social uniformity. Those people who resist the rules and patterns that are being imposed are usually called “deviant” (Socialization). However, some societies are heterogeneous, since they comprise various ethnic groups (for example, the USA). In such countries people are more likely to be tolerant and liberal when coming across different norms and beliefs (Socialization).
All in all, socialization is a rather complicated process, influenced by various factors. This process starts in infancy and continues the whole life of the individual, being especially active at the first stages of a person’s life. The ability of the individual to actualize his skills and his potential, as well as the resistance to stress and depression are highly dependent on the peculiarities of his socialization.