The Dimensions of Socialization With Children

Some behavior is expected of us in all the settings into which we enter whilst we are expected to behave in certain other ways only in one specific position. There are patterns of behavior relating to such roles as that of a church sides man at morning service on Sunday that are played in only one setting. These will be called tertiary roles. In addition there is a large number of roles that are played in some, but not all settings. These secondary roles form a large and important part of what we learn whilst being socialized. Some examples will be mentioned very briefly here, though further consideration will be given to such secondary roles in later chapters.

The way in which we analyze secondary socialization is determined by the nature of the social system with which we are concerned. Thus, in advanced urban societies there are clusters of closely interrelated roles that centre on economic and on political institutions, but members of these societies do not play these roles constantly. Such roles may, there-fore, be considered as secondary roles, and much secondary socialization takes place in childhood. By the age at which adolescents leave school they already have learnt, partly at home and partly at school, an incomplete, but wide, knowledge of the occupational structure. In other words, their economic socialization as producers is well under way. At an earlier age they have learnt something of their national role, knowing who to support, for example, in a war or in an international sporting event. Similarly, children gradually learn their political roles so that they know not only such details of their own particular political system as how to vote, but also feel that they are part of it and have a greater or lesser degree of power to take part in and to influence political decisions that concern them.Clearly socialization is a forward-looking process. In the political and economic examples that have just been given the child was enabled to learn more efficiently the behavior that was later expected of him because, whether consciously or not, prior preparation had been given to him. This preparation has been termed anticipatory socialization. The teaching of social studies at school is often a very relevant part of the child’s preparation for the economic and political roles that he will play in the future. The engaged couple rehearse together prior to marriage many of the behavioral patterns that they will later play as husband and wife. Likewise, the pregnant woman, at least mentally, prepares herself for her future as a mother.

This process of anticipatory socialization is important in that, if it is apt, it eases the transition into future positions. The young person who has been taught at school to study in the more independent way expected of him at a university or college will more easily move from the role of secondary pupil to that of tertiary student. Discontinuities in behavioral expectations are to some degree eliminated. However, anticipatory socialization may be misplaced and thereby discontinuities may remain or even be increased. The child who does not achieve the particular occupation to which he has been led to aspire because either his parents or his school have unduly raised his hopes will have greater difficulties in moving into his economic role than might otherwise have been the case.One final point must be made before completing this examination of socialization from the structural perspective. Since we can talk of a life cycle of roles through which individuals move, socialization must clearly be a lifelong process. In recent years, as sociologists have realized that this concept and the analytical tools associated with it are equally applicable to the learning of adult roles, much work on adult socialization has been done. Socialization is not something that happens only in childhood. New roles must be learnt, and often old behavior must be forgotten because it is no longer apt for the new positions that are assumed or the new groups that are joined. This is particularly true as persons grow older. They are no longer expected to behave as young folk do. This is attested by the existence of such phrases as ‘mutton dressed as Iamb’. Adult socialization, however, builds greatly on the foundations laid in childhood mainly because, as psychologists have shown us, what we learn as children is more permanent in nature than what we learn in later life.