Agents of Socialization
An agent of socialization is any person or institution that shapes a person’s values, attitude, and behavior. Socialization agents help individuals get into the overall activities of their society.
These agencies or agents may be formal or informal. The most significant socializing agencies are the family, peer relationships, schools, neighborhoods (the community), the mass media, etc.
Here, we understand the agents of socialization as formal and informal agents.
Informal Agents of Socialization
The informal agents of socialization include family, peer groups, neighborhoods, kin groups, and marriage.
The family is the first social institution that a learner comes into contact with immediately after birth. In the way of socialization, the most valuable connections are between a child and his/her parents and siblings. The family socializes children in the following ways:
- They learn and acquire a language that is important for communication.
- They learn that they are members of a group where each member is important for survival.
- They learn the position they occupy and its expectations.
- They learn about the hierarchy of authority and recognize it, e.g. they learn to obey and respect older people and parents.
- They learn accepted values, etiquette, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors which form the basis of their moral behavior.
- They learn how to relate with other people either within the family or outside it.
- They learn about their role in the family and the wider society.
- They learn activities such as sharing, cooperating, healthy competition, leadership, and being led.
- They learn how to choose the right people to associate with.
- They learn to respect property.
- They learn hygiene, self-protection, good grooming, and loving others.
- They learn to accept themselves as girls and boys.
- They learn loyalty to the family and nation.
- They learn their gender role.
- They learn religion.
Other than parents and schools, peer groups play very significant roles in the socialization process. Peer groups refer to groups whose members are more or less of the same sex, age, and rank. E.g. Pupils in a classroom form friendships as a peer group. Next to the family, peer groups are the most powerful socialization agent force in society.
Sometimes, the impact of the peer group, be it negative or positive, can be as powerful as that of parents. The peer group may spread trending societal values or develop new and distinct cultures of its own with unique values. The peer group socializes children in the following ways:
- In a peer group, children learn group loyalty. The peers form strong bonds of friendship. The bonds can be so strong that they can lead to disregard for authority.
- They also learn to share information – a lot of information is shared through peer groups. This is because the members of a peer group are usually very free with each other. E.g. it is possible for learners to learn about sex and sexual reproduction through peers.
- They also learn to identify with the various gender roles. This is because peer groups are usually single-sex oriented.
- Children in peer groups learn to accept and accommodate others who have different values and views from their families.
Neighborhoods (the community)
A community is a group of people with a common culture living together for a common purpose. Examples of communities are a school, villages, ethnic groups, nations, etc. The community socializes children in the following ways:
- It gives guidance on roles and social responsibilities to young people.
- It helps young people to learn how to interact with others in the community.
Kin group is also one of the agents of socialization. The group of individuals with socially accepted ties or bonds based on fictional as well as actual ancestral, genealogical, and cultural origin is called the kin group. The kin group socializes individuals in the following ways:
- The individuals learn how to interact with members of the kin group and wider community.
- They learn to respect the elders and love juniors through kin-group relations.
- They learn activities such as sharing, co-operating, healthy competition, etc.
- They learn the position they occupy in the kin group and play roles such as care, help, and seek and offer advice when needed.
- They realize that they have a wider connection and learn the importance of unity.
Marriage is a socially approved union that unites two or more individuals as spouses. Implicit in this union is that there will be sexual relations, procreation, and permanence in the relationship. Marriage socializes individuals in the following ways:
- The spouse (couples) know for whom they are economically and socially responsible.
- The spouse learns the economic role of a parent.
- Helps them to understand and compromise situations in life.
- Marriage helps people know the importance of inheritance.
- Marriage also makes people aware of sexual behavior as not just fun but for fulfilling biological and psychological needs.
Formal Agents of Socialization
The formal agents of socialization include educational institutions, mass media, political institutions, religious institutions, workplaces, etc.
In modern societies, besides the child’s parents, there are other agents of socialization such as daycare centers, nurseries, and kindergarten, as well as schools and universities. It seems that these various agents of socialization have partially taken over the function of the parents, particularly in modern societies, where women are increasingly leaving their traditional home-based responsibilities by engaging in employment outside the home.
The school represents a formal and conscious effort by society to socialize its young ones. The educational institution (school) socializes children in the following ways:
- Learners learn to behave in an acceptable manner through class rules which are important in society.
- Learners learn to behave in a socially acceptable way through school rules and the role modeling of teachers.
- Learners learn how to play their roles and carry out their duties in the school.
- Learners learn how to identify themselves with the school and be proud of it through the school motto and traditions.
- Learners learn how to relate with others in their various statuses, e.g. classmates, housemates, club mates, prefects, teachers, non-teaching staff, etc.
- Learners acquire academic comradeship through school.
- Learners learn how to accept and appreciate those who are better than them or worse than them. This helps them to accept their weaknesses and strengths in their society.
- Learners with leadership skills are identified and nurtured in schools.
- Learners learn and practice social values such as sharing, competing, and cooperation.
The Mass Media
The mass media such as television, radio, movies, videos, tapes, books, magazines, and newspapers are also important agents of socialization. Studies show that the most crucial effect on children comes from television. The effects are both negative and positive.
The negative impact seems to be greater than parents and other concerned bodies worry about the way television is socializing children. For example, studies show that watching violence o television can encourage aggressive behavior in children. The mass media socializes individuals in the following ways:
- People get to know about current fashion and entertainment e.g. songs and movies all over the world through mass media.
- People identify themselves with actors and other celebrities through mass media.
- They copy the way of dressing, talking, or celebrities they see in mass media.
- Through mass media, foreign influence has an effect on Nepali culture.
Political Institutions (the state) such as political party
The State is an authoritarian agency. It makes law for the people and lays down the modes of conduct expected of them. Similarly, political parties compete to gain political power and maintain it. They try to win the support of the members of society based on socio-economic policy and programs. In this process, they disseminate political values and norms and socialize citizens. The political parties socialize the citizen for stability and change in the political system.
Many families identify themselves with a religious group. Therefore, children are introduced to religion at a very early age. The religious institution socializes children in the following ways:
- They have moral codes which guide people in their relationships.
- Children learn social responsibilities e.g. sharing with and looking after the weak or poor.
- Children learn how to love one another through religious organizations.
Workplace or Occupation
The workplace is a major agent of socialization for adults. In the workplace i.e. the occupational world, the Individual finds him/herself with new shared interests and goals. He/she makes adjustments to the job position and at the same is work time makes adjustments with other workers.
For an individual, work is not only the source of income but also his/her identity and status within society as a whole. The workplace socializes individuals in the following ways:
- The individual (adults) learns to make career choices.
- Some adults engage in anticipatory socialization, learning to play a role before actually entering into it and undertaking training while some decide to carry on their parental occupations.
- The individual enters into relations of cooperation, specialization of tasks, and the nature of class divisions.
- They learn to perform work-related roles.
- They learn not only skills but also matching attitudes and values.
- As an employee, they learn to respect authority and follow workplace norms and social norms at large.
- They learn to unwillingly adjust to the unpleasant aspects of their job.
- In the course of time, the individuals learn that the job becomes an indispensable part of the person’s self-identity and therefore remain committed.