Chapter 3 Socialization      Sociology Home

          I. What Is Human Nature?

A.  Isolated children show what? P. 60 social environment? 

1.      The case study of Isabelle shows what?

2.      End result for Isabelle?

B.  Institutionalized children show that traits such as intelligence, cooperative behavior, and friendliness are the result of what? P. 62

1.      What were the findings involving the infants in orphanages who received little adult interaction?

2.      What happened to the control group of infants who remained in the orphanage?

3.      What did we learn from Genie?

C. Studies of monkeys P. 63

1.      What is the result of longer and more severe the isolation?

2.      Harry and Margaret Harlow demonstrated what?

II         Socialization into the Self, Mind, and Emotions

A.     Socialization is the process by which we ___?

1.      Charles H. Cooley (1864-1929) concluded what?

2.      What is this called?

3.      According to Cooley, this process contains what 3 steps? P. 64

4.      A favorable or negative reflection in the "social mirror" leads to what?

5.      If we misjudge others' reactions, these become part of our self-concept.

B.     This development process is long or short term?

C.     George H. Mead (1863-1931) agreed with Cooley, but added that what is critical to the development of a self?

1.      In play, we learn to take the role of others:

2.      Mead concluded that children are first able to take only the role of whom?

3.      As the self develops, children internalize the expectations of whom?

4.      What was Mead’s generalized other?

5.      According to Mead the development of the self goes through what 3 stages?

6.      Mead distinguished the "I" from the "me" in development of the self. Explain. P. 65

7.      Mead concluded that not only the self is a social product, but also the mind.  We cannot think without symbols, and it is society that gives us our symbols by giving us our language.

D.       After years of research, Jean Piaget (1896-1980) concluded that there are four stages in the development of cognitive skills. Name each, identify the ages and describe each. P. 66

E.   While it appears that the looking glass self, role taking, and the social mind are universal phenomena, there is not a consensus about the universality of Piaget's four stages of cognitive development.

1.      Some adults never appear to reach which stage, whether due to particular social experiences or to biology.

2.      The content of what we learn varies from one culture to another; with very different experiences and the thinking processes that revolve around these experiences, we can not assume that the developmental sequences will be the same for everyone.

F.       Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) believed that personality consists of what 3 elements?  Describe each. P. 67

1.      Sociologists object to Freud's view that inborn and unconscious motivations are the primary reasons for human behavior. Why?

G.  Emotions are not simply the result of biology; they also depend on what?

1.      Everyone experiences what 6 basic emotions:

2.      The expression of emotions varies according to what factors? P. 68

3.      Socialization not only leads to different ways of expressing emotions, what else?

H.     Most socialization is meant to turn us into what? P. 69

1.  Why do we do some things and not others?

2.   How does society sets up controls on our behavior?

III.       Socialization into Gender

A.  How does society nudge boys and girls in separate directions?

1.   How do parents begin the process? P. 70

B.  How does the media reinforce society's expectations of gender? P. 71

IV.       Agents of Socialization

A.  Our experiences in the family have a life-long impact on us, laying down a basic sense of self, motivation, values, and beliefs.

1.      How do parents do this? 

2.      Research by Melvin Kohn suggests that there are social class and occupational differences in child-rearing.

3.      What is the main concern of working-class parents regarding their children?  Middle class?

4.      How can the type of job held by the parent be a factor?

B.      Does the neighborhood have an impact on children’s development?  Explain P. 73

C. How does religion play a major role in the socialization of most Americans?  Must they are not raised in a religious family?

D. Why has day care become a significant agent of socialization?

1.      Researchers have found that the effects of day care depend on what?

2.      Overall, research findings suggest that which children benefit from day care?

3.      Children in better-quality day care interact better with other children and have fewer behavioral problems.

4.      One national study of young children found that the more hours per week that children were in day care, the weaker the bond between mother and child and the more negative their interactions.  While the findings of this study are indisputable, the explanation for them is another matter.

E.  Schools serve many manifest (intended) functions for society, including what?

1.      Schools also have several latent (unintended) functions.

2.      How does the school present universality?

3.       How do schools also have a hidden curriculum?

F.   One of the most significant aspects of education is that it exposes children to peer groups.

1.      What is a peer group? How does its influence compare with that of the family?

2.      What did research by Patricia and Peter Adler document?

3.      Why is it almost impossible to go against a peer group? P. 75

G.     How are sports also powerful socializing agents?

H.     How is the workplace a major agent of socialization for adults?  What is anticipatory socialization?  

V.        Resocialization

A.  What is Resocialization?

1.      When does resocialization usually occur?

2.      Resocialization can be an intense experience, although it does not have to be.

B.   Erving Goffman coined the term total institution.

1.      What is a total institution?

2.      What are examples of total institutions?

3.      What is a degradation ceremony and what is its purpose?

4.      How would you rate the effectiveness and why?

VI.             Socialization Through the Life Course P. 77

A.  Socialization occurs throughout a person's entire lifetime and can be broken up into different stages.

B.   Childhood (birth to 12).  Compare and contrast attitudes toward the child through history. P. 78

C.     Adolescence (13-17) 

1.   What effect did the Industrial Revolution have on teenagers?  How did attitudes toward education change?

2.   Why would adolescents suffer inner turmoil? Describe some of their created standards.

D.     Young Adulthood (18-29) P. 79

1.      How are adult responsibilities postponed?

2.       Describe this period?

E.   The Middle Years (30-65) This can be separated into what 2 periods?

F.      Older years (66 and beyond): This can also be separated into what 2 periods?

G.  The social significance of the life course is how it is shaped by what social factors?

VII.     Are We Prisoners of Socialization? P. 80

A.  Do sociologists think of people as little robots who simply are the results of their exposure to socializing agents?  Explain.

B.   Are we actively involved even in the social construction of the Self?  How?

Key Terms

social environment: (p. 60)

self: (p. 63)

looking-glass self: (p. 63)

socialization: (p. 63)

generalized other: (p. 64)

take the role of the other: (p. 64)

I: (p. 64)

significant other: (p. 64)

superego:  (p. 66)

ego: (p. 66)

id: (p. 66)

gender socialization: (p. 69)

mass media: (p. 70)

social inequality: (p.71)

resocialization: (p. 75)

total institution: (p. 75)

agents of socialization:

anticipatory socialization: (p. 75)

degradation ceremony: (p. 75)

life course: (p. 77)

transitional adulthood: (p.79)


Patricia and Peter Adler:

Philippe Ariés:

Charles H. Cooley:

Sigmund Freud:

Erving Goffman:

Susan Goldberg and Michael Lewis:

Harry and Margaret Harlow:

Kenneth Keniston:

Melvin Kohn:

George Herbert Mead:

Jean Piaget:

H.M. Skeels and H.B. Dye:

Detailed Outline

Key Terms and Theorists

What is Human Nature?

·         The “Nature vs. Nurture” argument.

·         Studies of isolated and institutionalized children.

·         The Harlow Experiments.

·         “Society makes us human.”

·         Down-to-Earth Sociology Heredity or Environment?  p.61

·         Nature: refers to characteristics passed through heredity.

·         Nurture: refers to the social environment, contact with others.

·         Harry and Margaret Harlow: conducted experiments with baby monkeys to demonstrate the relationship between infant-mother bonding and “intimate physical contact.”

Socialization Into the Self and Mind

·         Cooley and the “Looking Glass Self.”

·         Mead’s three stage process of socialization.

·         Mead’s concepts of the “I” and “Me”.

·         Piaget’s theory of how children learn to reason.

·         Freud’s theory of personality development.

·         Figure 3.1 How We Learn to Take the Role of the Other p.65


·         Looking Glass Self: our sense of self develops from interaction with others.

·         Charles Horton Cooley: developed the concept of “Looking Glass Self.”

·         George Herbert Mead: developed a three stage process to explain socialization including the Imitation, Play, and Games stages.

·         Jean Piaget: Swiss psychologist who developed a theory on developing the ability to reason.

·         Sigmund Freud: developed psychoanalysis, a technique for treating emotional problems.

Learning Personality and Emotions

·         Freud and the development of emotions.

·         Emotions as social control.

·         Cultural Diversity Around the World Do You See What I See?: Eastern and Western Ways of Perceiving and Thinking p.68

·         Psychoanalysis: a technique for treating emotional problems through long-term, intensive exploration of the subconscious mind.

·         Ego: the balancing force between the id and demands of society.

·         Superego: the conscience.

Socialization Into Gender

·         Gender socialization begins at birth.

·         The mass media has a significant influence on gender socialization.

·         Gender Socialization: expecting different attitudes and behaviors from a person because they are either male or female.

·         Mass Media: forms of communication directed at large audiences, such as radio, television, and movies.

Agents of Socialization

·         Family

·         Neighborhood

·         Religion

·         Day Care

·         School and Peers

·         The Workplace

·         Mass Media in Social Life Lara Croft, Tomb Raider p 72

·         Cultural Diversity in the U. S. Caught Between Two Worlds p 74

·         Agents of Socialization: people and groups that influence our orientation towards life, our self concept, emotions, attitudes, and behavior.

·         Peer Group: individuals of roughly the same age who are linked by common interests.

·         Anticipatory Socialization: learning to play a role before entering it.


§         Total Institutions

§         Degradation Ceremonies

§         Loss of the Personal Identity Kit

§         The Results of Being in a Total Institution  Boot Camp As A Total Institution p 76

§         ABC Video Erasing Race

·         Resocialization:  learning of new norms, values, and behaviors to match new situations in life.

·         Total Institution: a place cut off from the rest of society where officials control almost every aspect of its operation.

·         Erving Goffman: coined the term Total Institution.

·         Degradation Ceremony: stripping away an individual’s current identity.

Socialization Through the Life Course

·         Childhood (birth-12)

·         Adolescence (13-17)

·         Young Adulthood (18-29)

·         The Middle Years (30-65)

·         The Older Years (65+

§   ABC Video Faceless, Nameless, Fathers

§   ABC Video Asian Americans

§   Figure 3.2 Transitional Adulthood

·         Life Course: the biological and social stages a person passes through from birth to death.

·         Adolescence: a stage in life between childhood and adulthood,

·         Sandwich Generation: People usually in the later middle years (50-65).


Discussion Topics to Encourage Student Participation

§                     Read the box on page 72, From Xena, Warrior Princess, to Lara Croft, Tomb Raider, and then discuss how the mass media not only reflect gender stereotypes but also change these stereotypes.

§                     From Boot Camp as a Total Institution, page 76, What is the significance of the degradation ceremony that recruits undergo.  Is it fair for an entire platoon to be punished for the failure of one individual? 

§                     What can studies of feral, isolated, and institutionalized children tell us about child development? Based on these studies, do children really need parents to develop normally? Is it necessary for infants to be around adult human beings in order to become “human” themselves?

§                     Provide examples of the way in which the “looking glass self” is evident in human behavior. Suggest which “others” can have the most influence on how individuals actually see themselves. Compare this to Mead’s analysis of role-playing and role-taking.

§                     What might you include in a lesson on “What is sociology?” for students in the concrete operational stage of cognitive development?  How would a lesson on the same topic be different for students in the formal operational stage of cognitive development?

§                     What aspects of development are universal?  Which are not? Have the students make their own observations.

§                     In your opinion, how did Freud contribute to our understanding of the socialization process?  Why might sociologists react negatively toward much of Freud’s analysis?

§                     Does the power of socialization determine behavior and enforce conformity? Does this mean that we are not “free”?

§                     What factors might account for the fact that parents respond differently to male and female children?

§                     How do popular television programs portray gender roles?  Is there much variety contained in these presentations?  What messages do these programs transmit about appropriate male and female behavior? 

§                     How much of the socialization process is “unconscious”?

§                     What are the positive and negative effects of day care centers on young children? 

Classroom Activities and Student Projects

§                     Read several sources on isolated and institutionalized children.  List traits that we take for granted as being “human” (e.g., high intelligence, cooperative behavior, and friendliness).  Attempt to prove that these traits are socially created, not inherited behaviors.  Find current cases of extreme neglect and abuse reported in the media and compare these with the earlier studies of isolated and institutionalized children.

§                     Subject a number of popular songs to a content analysis. Analyze these closely, looking for messages about gender relations, emotions, and life stages.

§                     Analyze the impact of the agents of socialization on children.  You may wish to choose the family, religion, schools, peer groups, or mass media.  For example, you might look at children’s books, toys, or games (video or otherwise).  In the written analysis, include the following: What were your childhood favorites?  When did you first become aware that games have rules and other players to deal with?

§                     Read one or more of the following books and write a term paper on issues pertaining to socialization by television: Sandra Ball-Rokeach, et al.  The Great American Values Test: Influencing Behavior and Belief Through Television. NY: Free Press, 1984; Robert  Leibert, The Early Window: Effects of Television on Children and Youth, 3rd ed. NY: Pergamon, 1988.; Robert S. Lichter et al.  Watching America.  New York: Prentice-Hall, 1991.; Michael Parenti, Inventing the News: The Politics of the Mass Media. NY: St. Martin’s, 1986.; Clint C. Wilson II and Felix Gutierrez, Minorities and Media. Beverly Hills: Sage, 1985.

§                     Develop a chart showing the life course you have experienced.  What are the differences and similarities between your generation and those before you?

Suggestions for Guest Speakers and Service Learning Projects

§                     Invite an expert who has worked with institutionalized or autistic children to discuss the importance of human interaction in one’s life.  

§                     Ask a non-Western colleague to discuss child rearing practices in his or her country.  The speaker could relate his or her observations to the stages of childhood development, referencing Piaget, Mead, and Freud.

§                     Invite an advertising executive to speak to the class regarding the mass media and marketing. Ask them to address issues of gender, beauty, and sex in advertising.

§                     Ask a local media representative from the newspaper, radio, or television to discuss the impact of their trade on their listening audience.

§                     Have students choose a partner who can be with them for an eight hour period. In this two-person team, have one member refrain from speaking for the eight hour period. The second member of the team will serve as the silent member’s mentor to assist them. The silent member of the team may use hand signs, pencil and paper, or any other form of non-verbal communication to gain what they need. The mentor will also assist the silent member. On a second day, have the team trade places. Each member of the team is to take field notes on their experiences and develop the exercise into a one or two page summary to share with the class.

§                     Have students visit two different areas at opposite ends of the socio-economic scale. One should be an upscale area in the suburbs or in the city. The other should be a deteriorating area of the inner city or a deteriorating community that has lost its economic base (such as a steel town that has fallen on hard times). Using a camcorder, record the physical appearance of both areas paying close attention to the agents of socialization that are most apparent that can be recorded without infringing upon one’s personal privacy. Show the film to the class and lead a class discussion.

Suggested Films

Gender and the Interpretation of Emotion. Films for the Humanities and Sciences. 1998-1999 Listings, 25 min. (Video).  The video examines whether the sexes differ in their abilities to judge complex emotions in others.

Gender Socialization. Insight Media. 1993, 60 min. (Video).  This program describes how gender socialization influences self-esteem and worldview.

Face Value: Perceptions of Reality. Films for the Humanities and Sciences. 1998-1999

Listings, 26 min. (Video). This presentation argues that perceptions of attractiveness may be universal over         cultures.

Inherit The Wind. 1960, 127 min. (Video).  A movie based on the play of the same name that captures the culture and spirit of the Scopes trial on teaching Darwinism in Tennessee.

Nature/Nurture. Films for the Humanities. 1987, 52 min. (Video). Phil Donahue explores nature versus nature with regard to risk takers, identical twins and programs to develop intelligence in infants. 

Socialization. Allyn and Bacon Interactive Video for Introductory Sociology. 1998, 3 minutes. (Video).  An introductory brief clip from Allyn and Bacon to accompany any lecture of socialization.

Web Sites

Introduction to Puppy Socialization –

This is an interesting site discussing dog training as a socialization process. From the information found in the site, how is animal training similar and different from human socialization?

Center for Evolutionary Psychology – Key Objective 3.4: Human Development

To provide support for research and comprehensive training in this area, and to facilitate multidisciplinary and multi-university collaboration, UCSB has established the Center for Evolutionary Psychology.

Gender Advertisements in Magazines Aimed at African-Americans – Key Objective 3.8: The Role of Cultural Stereotypes Perpetuated through the Media


This article by Tara L. McLaughlin appeared in the January 1999 issues of Sex Roles: A Journal of Research. It addresses magazine advertising as an agent of socialization.

Socialization and Home Schooling – Key Objective 3.9: Agents of Socialization

Experience and studies show that home schooled children are generally better socialized than children who have been consigned to the public warehouse schools.

The Politics of Presentation: Goffman and Total Institutions – Key Objective 3.10: Total Institutions

Erving Goffman's essay, "On the Characteristics of Total Institutions," is a classic example of the relation between methods of presenting research and scholarship and their political content, which is never simple and direct.

For additional Web Links and World Wide Web Activities Visit Allyn and Bacon’s Companion Website at

Additional References

Becker, Howard and Blanche Geer. 1998. “The Fate of Idealism in Medical School” in             Robert Thompson (ed.) The Essential Sociology Reader. Boston, MA: Allyn and    Bacon.

Drew, Paul and Anthony Wootton (eds.) 1988. Erving Goffman: Exploring the         Interaction Order. Boston, MA: Northeastern University Press.

Goffman, Erving. 1961. Asylums. Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Co., Inc.

Giuffre, Katherine and Pamela Paxton 1977. “Building Social Networks” Teaching       Sociology. Vol. 25 (July) pp. 207-213.

Twain, Mark. (1883) 1972. “Learning a trade” in L.A. Coser (ed.) Sociology Through            Literature. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 70-75.


1.         Explain what is necessary in order for us to develop into full human beings.

2.         Why do sociologists argue that socialization is a process and not a product?

3.         Having read about how the family, the media, and peers all influence our gender socialization, discuss why gender roles tend to remain unchanged from one generation to the next.

4.         As the text points out, the stages of the life course are influenced by the biological clock, but they also reflect broader social factors.  Identify the stages of the life course and indicate how social factors have contributed to the definition of each of these stages. 

5.         How would you answer the question, "Are We Prisoners of Socialization?"

6.         According to the video, “Socialization,” which of the following arguments is more powerful: nature or nurture?


  • Scientists have attempted to determine how much of people’s characteristics come from heredity and how much from the social environment. Observations of isolated and institutionalized children help to answer this question. These studies have concluded that language and intimate interaction are essential to the development of human characteristics.
  • Charles Horton Cooley, George Herbert Mead, Jean Piaget, and Sigmund Freud provide insights into the social development of human beings. Cooley and Mead demonstrated that the self is created through our interactions with others. Piaget identified four stages in the development of our ability to reason: (1) sensorimotor; (2) preoperational; (3) concrete operational; and (4) formal operational. Freud defined the personality in terms of the id, ego, and superego. Personality developed as the inborn desires (id) clashed with social constraints (superego). Socialization into emotions is one way societies produce conformity; not only do we learn how to express our emotions, but also what emotions to feel.
  • Gender socialization is a primary means of controlling human behavior, and a society’s ideals of sex-linked behaviors are reinforced by its social institutions.
  • The main agents of socialization—the mass media, the family, the neighborhood, religion, day care, school, peer groups, sports, and the workplace—each contribute to the socialization of people to become full-fledged members of society.
  • Resocialization is the process of learning new norms, values, attitudes, and behaviors. Intense resocialization takes place in total institutions. Most resocialization is voluntary, but some is involuntary.
  • Socialization, which begins at birth, continues throughout the life course. At each stage the individual must adjust to a new set of social expectations. Life course patterns vary by social location, such as history, gender, race-ethnicity, and social class.
  • Although socialization lays down the basic self and is modified by our social location, humans are not robots but rational beings who consider options and make choices.


As you read Chapter 3, use these learning objectives to organize your notes.

1.            Discuss the ongoing debate over what most determines human behavior: “nature” (heredity) or “nurture” (social environment), and cite the evidence that best supports one position or the other.

2.            Explain the statement: “It is society that makes people human.”

3.            Discuss how studies of feral, isolated, and institutionalized children prove that social contact and interaction is essential for healthy human development.

4.            Understand, distinguish between, and state the respective strengths and limitations of the following theorists’ insights into human development: Charles Horton Cooley, George Herbert Mead, Jean Piaget, Sigmund Freud, Lawrence Kohlberg, and Carol Gilligan.

5.            Talk about how socialization is not only critical to the development of the mind, but to the development of emotions as well— affecting not only how people express their emotions, but also what particular emotions they may feel.

6.            Know what is meant by gender socialization and how the family, media, and other agents of socialization teach children, from the time of their birth, to act masculine or feminine based on their gender.

7.            Describe some of the “gender messages” in the family and mass media and discuss how these messages may contribute to social inequality between men and women.

8.            List the major agents of socialization in American society, and talk about how each of these teach —and influence—people’s attitudes, behaviors, and other orientations toward life.

9.            Define the term resocialization and provide examples of situations that may necessitate resocialization.

10.        Discuss how different settings, including total institutions, may go about the task of resocializing individuals.

11.        Understand why socialization is a lifelong process and summarize the needs, expectations, and responsibilities that typically accompany different stages of life.

12.        Discuss why human beings are not prisoners of socialization while providing examples of how people can—and do—exercise a considerable degree of freedom over which agents of socialization to follow and which cultural messages to accept—or not accept—from those agents of socialization.  


1.             Watch one afternoon and one evening of television. (Some people might say you ought not to be encouraged to do this!) Note the time of the day or evening, what day or night of the week it is, and the type of program (soap opera, or sit-com, etc.). What images of men and women are on the programs? Refer to gender, age/aging, and social class. Log your observations, and relate them to your text’s discussions of socialization.

2.             Think about the agents of socialization that you have experienced in your life. Which one has been the most influential? Explain why? Which agent do you think was more important for your parents? Explain why?

Chapter Summary: Socialization

For centuries, people have been intrigued by the question,, “What is human about human nature?” How many of a person’s characteristics come from “nature” (heredity) and how many come from “nurture” (the social environment)? Observations of isolated and institutionalized children help to answer this question. These studies have concluded that language and intimate interaction are essential to the development of human characteristics. Twin studies and animal experimentation are two methods social scientists have used to study the impact of both nature and nurture.

Charles H. Cooley, George H. Mead, Jean Piaget, and Sigmund Freud provided insights into the social development of human beings. Cooley and Mead emphasized sociological explanations for social development. The work of Cooley and Mead demonstrates that the self is created through our interactions with others. The works of Piaget and Freud focused on the psychological explanations. Piaget identified four stages in the development of our ability to reason: (1) sensorimotor; (2) pre-operational; (3) concrete operational; and (4) formal operational. Freud defined the personality in terms of the id, ego, and superego. Personality developed as the inborn desires (id) clashed with social constraints (superego).

Socialization influences not only how we express our emotions, but what emotions we feel. Cultural differences dictate whether friends kiss, shake hands, or bow when they meet. A good part of childhood socialization centers on how to express emotions, for each culture has “norms of emotion” that demand conformity.

Gender socialization is a primary means of controlling human behavior. A society's ideals of sex-linked behaviors are reinforced by its social institutions. Parents are the first significant others who teach us the fundamental expectations of gender socialization. The mass media, including popular music, movies, and television, reinforce the gender message initiated by members of the family.

Agents of socialization are defined as people and groups that influence our orientation to life, our self concept, emotions, attitude, and behavior. They include family, religion, day care, school, peer groups, the mass media, sports, and the workplace. Together they contribute to our socialization, enabling us to become full-fledged members of society.

Resocialization is the process of learning new norms, values, attitudes and behaviors to match new situations in life. The most intense resocialization takes place in total institutions, places where people are cut off from the rest of society and where they come under almost total control. Most resocialization is voluntary, but some is involuntary, especially that which occurs in total institutions such as mental hospitals and prisons.

Socialization, which begins at birth, continues throughout the life course. At each stage the individual must adjust to a new set of social expectations.