What is Socialization? Definition, Features, Functions, Stages, and Importance

What is Socialization?

Socialization is the process of making a biological being or organism into a social being and attaining his personality. It is a process through which an individual is prepared to become an acceptable and useful member of society.

In sociology, Socialization is:

  • a process whereby an individual learns and is trained on the basic norms, values, beliefs, skills, attitudes, ways of doing and acting as appropriate to a specific social group or society.
  • an ongoing, never-ending process from cradle to the grave. That means a person passes through various stages of socialization, from birth to death. Thus, we need socialization as infants, preschool children, schoolboys/ girls, pubescents, adolescents, adults, and older persons.
  • involves the process whereby the culture, skills, norms, traditions, customs, etc., are transmitted from one generation or society to another.
  • where the new member is made aware of the organizational structure, and their position in society and learns to participate in social roles. For E.g. one can be a wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, and grandmother at the same time. Hence, the child must internalize the roles that he is expected to perform by himself and also the roles of the other persons with whom he interacts.
  • is a lifelong process because the status of a person keeps on changing from time to time and hence their roles.

In Other Words:

The human child comes into the world as a biological organism with animal needs. He is gradually molded-in society into a social being and learns social ways of acting and feeling. No individual could become the person and no culture could exist without it. This way of molding and shaping the personality of a person’s infant is named socialization.

socialization process of a child

Socialization is a social or psychological process whereby an individual becomes a functioning member of society by learning its rules and practices. Sociologists have given more importance to socialization because man is a cultural being. It is often referred to as the transmission of culture, the process whereby man learns the rules and practices of a social group, with the help of socialization man learns his social responsibility and he develops himself. So it is a learning process through which a biological being gets the shape of a social being. It is an aspect of all activities within all human societies. Just as we learn a game by playing it so we learn life by engaging in it.

Also Read: Social Institution: Definition, Types, Features, And Functions

Socialization according to Kimball Young means the “process of inducting the individual into the social and cultural world of making him a particular member in society and its various groups and inducing him to accept the norms and values of the society – socialization is a matter of learning and not of biological inheritance.”


  • According to Green, “Socialization is the process by which the child acquires a cultural content, along with selfhood and personality”.
  • According to Horton and Hunt, “Socialization is the process whereby one internalizes the norms of his groups, so that a distinct “self” emerges, unique to this individual.”
  • According to Peter Worsley, “Socialization is the process of transmission of culture, the process whereby men learn the rules and practices of social groups.”

Characteristics of Socialization

The key features of socialization may be discussed as under:

Inculcates basic discipline

Socialization inculcates basic discipline. A person learns to control his impulses. He may show disciplined behavior to gain social approval.

Helps to control human behavior

It helps to control human conduct. An individual from birth to death undergoes training and his, behavior is controlled in numerous ways. To take care of the social order, there are certain procedures or tools in society. These procedures become a part of the man’s life and man gets fitted into society. Through socialization, society expects to regulate the behavior of its members automatically. 

Socialization is rapid if there is more humanity among the agencies of socialization

Socialization takes place rapidly if the agencies of socialization are more unanimous in their ideas and skills. When there is a conflict between the ideas, examples, and skills transmitted in-home and those transmitted by school or peers, the socialization of the individual tends to be slower and ineffective.

Socialization takes place formally and informally

Formal socializations take through direct instruction and education in schools and colleges. Family is, however, the first and the most powerful source of education. Children learn their language, customs, norms, and values in the family.

Socialization is a continuous process

Socialization is an ongoing lifelong process. It does not cease when a child becomes an adult. As socialization does not cease when a child becomes an adult, the internalization of culture continues from generation to generation. Society perpetuates itself through the internalization of culture. Its members transmit culture to the next generation and society continues to exist.

Socialization differs from society to society

Every society has its norms and values and therefore expectations concerning what people become. This fact indicates that children or individuals are socialized to become the ones with their social value.

Socialization differs also by subculture

For example the rich vs the poor; whether you learn to drive a car (rich) or ride a bicycle (poor).


Three elements play their part in the socialization process of the individual. They are:

  • The physical (or biological) and psychological heritage of the individual.
  • The environment in which he is born.
  • Culture in which he is because of the action and interaction between these elements.

Stages of Socialization

Socialization takes place at different palaces and therefore consists of four stages from infancy to adulthood. The stages or processes of socialization are:

The First Stage – The Oral Stage

This stage begins with the birth of the child and continues up to the completion of one year. Soon after the birth, the child cries a great deal. Using crying, the child learns to express his felt needs such as hunger.

In this stage, the child is involved in himself and his mother. S. Freud called this stage the ‘stage of primary identification’. It means the child merges his identity with that of the mother. The child only learns some control over the hunger drive.

The Second State – The Anal Stage

The second stage normally begins soon after the first year and is completed during the third year. It is here that the child learns that he cannot depend entirely on the mother and that he has to take some degree of care for himself. The child is taught to do some tasks such as toileting, keeping clothes clean, etc.

In this stage, the child internalizes two separate roles, his role and that of his mother. The child receives a caring mother and learns to give love in return. The child comes to know to distinguish the correct and incorrect actions. The child learns that the correct action is rewarded and the incorrect action is not rewarded or punished. Here, the mother is the socializing agent and acts as the mediator between the sub-system i.e. child-mother system to the larger system i.e. the family by yielding to the child’s demands and sometimes resisting it.

The Third Stage-The Oedipal Stage

The third stage normally starts from the fourth year of the child and extends up to puberty (age of 12 or 13 years). It is in this stage, that the child becomes a member of the family as a whole. The child learns to identify himself/herself with the social role ascribed to him/her based on their sex.

According to Freud, the boy develops the ‘Oedipus complex‘ the feeling of jealousy towards the father and love towards the mother. In the same way, the girl develops the “Electra complex” the feeling of jealousy towards the mother and love towards the father.

After the age of six, the child can understand the sexual difference. The boy tries to identify himself with the father and the girl with the mother. In this stage, the parents help children to make proper sex identification. For example, the Eskimo father shows the boy how to shoot. When once the boy has learned the goal of being like men, he will tend to imitate men, especially the lather and so is the case with the girl who will learn to imitate the mother. Thus, in this stage of socialization, the child makes three kinds of identification:

  • The boy identifies with his father and the girl identifies wither mother (i.e. sex-role identification)
  • Both the boy and girl identify with all his/her siblings (i.e. the role of the child in the family),
  • Both the boy and, the girl identifies with the whole family as a member (i.e. the role of the child as a family member).

The Fourth Stage-The Stage of Adolescence

The fourth stage starts with the period of adolescence where physiological and psychological changes take place in the individuals. During this stage, the boys and girls try to become free from parental control. At the same time, they cannot completely escape from their dependence on their parents. Hence, they may experience a kind of strain or conflict themselves. They want to be free in doing various activities. But the parents continue to control many of their activities, particularly their sexual activity.

Parents encourage them to select their line of education, their occupation, and their life partners. They expect the adolescent child to accept responsibility and learn new roles assigned to them. The adolescents thus learn new roles and new behavior patterns and internalize new social norms associated with them.

Functions of Socialization

The main function of socialization is in personality development. It means that socialization stands for the development of the human brain, body, attitude, behavior, and so forth. However, the functions of socialization can be described as follows:

  • Through the process of socialization, the group transmits its values, customs, and beliefs from one generation to another.
  • It is a means of social control by which members are encouraged to conform to the ways of the group by internalizing the group’s norms and values.
  • It enables the individual to grow and develop into a socially functioning person.
  • It prepares him to fit in the group and to perform social roles.

Importance of Socialization

Socialization is important from the point of view of society and of the individual as well. The socialization process begins at the infancy (from home) of every individual where the child must learn the expectations of the society so that his/her behavior can be relied upon. However, its importance of it can be explained in the following points:

  • It is through socialization that group norms, values, and practices are learned by members that help to maintain the social system.
  • It is the socialization process that transmits culture from generation to generation.
  • Socialization plays a unique role in the personality development of the individual. The child has no self. The self emerges through the process of socialization. The self, which is the core of personality, develops out of the child’s interaction with others.
  • In the socialization process, the individual learns the culture as well as skills, ranging from language to manual dexterity which will enable him to become a participating member of human society.
  • Socialization inculcates basic disciplines, ranging from toilet habits and sexual behavior.
  • Society imparts the basic goals, aspirations, and values to which the child is expected to direct his behavior for the rest of his life.
  • Socialization helps individuals acquire appropriate social roles that they individual are expected to play. Like males, females, husbands, wives, sons, daughters, parents, children, student teachers, and so on, accepted social roles must be learned if the individual is to play a functional and predictable part in social interaction.

In this way, socialization transforms a human being into a social being. But man is not the product of socialization alone (nurture). He is also a product of heredity (nature).

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