Social Science

SOCIALIZATION

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Learning Objectives Debate the extent to which people would become human beings without adequate socialization.

Discuss the sociological perspective on human development, emphasizing the contributions of Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead.

Contrast functionalist and conflict theorists’ perspectives on the roles that families play in the socialization process.

Describe how schools socialize children in both formal and informal ways.

Explain the role that peer groups and media play in socialization now, and predict the part that these agents will play in the future.

Identify ways in which gender socialization and racial–ethnic socialization occur.

Discuss the stages in the life course and demon- strate why the process of socialization is impor- tant in each stage.

Distinguish between voluntary and involuntary resocialization, and give examples of each.

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W hat do the comments of Amelie and Dr. Ellen Lerner Rothman have in common? Sociologically speaking, their statements express concern about the social- ization process and how we learn to adapt when we join a new social organization. Many of us experi- ence stress when we take on new and seemingly

unfamiliar roles and find that we must learn the appropriate norms regarding how people in a spe- cific role should think, act, and communicate with others. This is especially true when we start col- lege or a graduate program and find ourselves in a new setting surrounded by many people we do not know.

Socialization in Higher Education Nothing could have gone more wrong for me on my first day [as a college student]. . . . I hadn’t bought any of my books yet because I thought they would be passed out to me as was customary in high school, and, worst of all, I had never really read a map on my own before so finding the classrooms in the huge main campus was really hard. Avoid looking like an idiot on your first day of higher education by following a few pieces of advice, all of which revolve around the two most important things I learned about being a college student: stay organized and make friends whenever possible. . . . Good luck on your first day! —As a student, Amelie (2010) found that she was unprepared for the first day of college, so she now helps other students with the socialization process by providing tips on how to survive in higher education.

The white coat ceremony . . . was intended to herald our introduction into the [Harvard Medical School]

community on our first day of medical school. While not the long coat of a physician or resident, the white coat signaled our medical affiliation and differentiated us from the civilian visitors and volunteers.

This was not an affiliation I was ready to claim as a first-year medical student. Over the course of the year, after taking courses in anatomy, pharmacology, physiology, genetics, and embryology, I was more deeply impressed by how little I knew than by how much I had learned. Yet every Monday in our Patient–Doctor course I found myself in my white coat interview- ing still another patient.

Despite the uncertainty of my place in the medical world, my white coat ushered me into the foreign world of the patient– doctor dynamic. . . . These weekly interviews as part of our Patient– Doctor course were about

learning the important questions, the right mannerisms, and the appropriate responses to our patients. Our instructors taught us to take a careful, methodical history, which I more or less skillfully replicated every week with a different patient. Although the goal of these weekly patient interactions was to discover a person’s experience with illness, these interviews were more about my learning process than about the patient’s story. . . . [I]n the medical world my white coat did not offer the solace of anonymity but forced me to take

on power that I was not ready to accept. —Ellen Lerner Rothman, M.D. (1999: 2–3), describing the professional socialization that students encounter in the early years of medical training

● Life is a continuous socialization process, whether we are visiting with others in an informal setting or learning in a formal medical classroom. What recurring patterns of socialization can you identify in this picture?

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How does socialization work in college? Look around in your classes at the beginning of each semester, and you will probably see other students trying to find out what is going to be expected of them as a student in a particular course. What is the course going to cover? What are the instructor’s requirements? How should students communicate with the instructor and other students in the class? Some information of this type is learned through formal instruction, such as in the syllabus or class- room, but much of what we know about school is learned informally through our observations of other people, by listening to what they say when we are in their physical presence, or through interact- ing with them by cell phone, e-mail, or text mes- saging when we are apart. Sociologists use the term socialization to refer to both the formal and infor- mal processes by which people learn a new role and find out how to be a part of a group or organization. Moreover, the process of socialization continues throughout an individual’s life.

In this chapter we examine the process of social- ization and identify reasons why socialization is crucial to the well-being of individuals, groups, and societies. We discuss both sociological and social psy- chological theories of human development. We look at the dynamics of socialization—how it occurs and what shapes it. We also focus on positive and nega- tive aspects of the socialization process, including the daily stresses that may be involved in this process.

Before reading on, test your knowledge about social- ization and the college experience by taking the “Sociology and Everyday Life” quiz.

Why Is Socialization Important Around the Globe? Socialization is the lifelong process of social inter- action through which individuals acquire a self- identity and the physical, mental, and social skills needed for survival in society. It is the essential link between the individual and society because it helps us to become aware of ourselves as members of the larger groups and organizations of which we are a part. Socialization also helps us to learn how to communicate with other people and to have knowl- edge of how other people expect us to behave in a variety of social settings. Briefly stated, socialization enables us to develop our human potential and to learn the ways of thinking, talking, and acting that are necessary for social living.

How Much Do You Know About Socialization and the College Experience?

Sociology and Everyday Life

True False

T F 1. Professors are the primary agents of socialization for college students. T F 2. Researchers have found that few students spend time studying with other students. T F 3. Many students find that college courses are stressful because the classes are an abrupt change from those

found in high school. T F 4. Law and medical students often report high levels of academic pressure because they know that their

classmates were top students during their undergraduate years. T F 5. Academic stress may be positive for students: It does not necessarily trigger psychological stress. T F 6. College students typically find the socialization process in higher education to be less stressful than the

professional socialization process they experience when they enter an occupation or profession. T F 7. Students who hold jobs outside of school experience higher levels of stress than students who are not

employed during their college years. T F 8. Getting good grades and completing schoolwork are the top sources of stress reported by college

students.

Answers on page 97.

socialization the lifelong process of social interaction through which individuals acquire a self-identity and the physical, mental, and social skills needed for survival in society.

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Socialization is most crucial during childhood because it is essential for the individual’s survival and for human development. The many people who met the early material and social needs of each of us were central to our establishing our own identity. During the first three years of our life, we begin to develop both a unique identity and the ability to manipulate things and to walk. We acquire sophisticated cognitive tools for thinking and for analyzing a wide variety of situa- tions, and we learn effective communication skills. In the process we begin a socialization process that takes place throughout our lives and through which we also have an effect on other people who watch us.

Socialization is also essential for the survival and stability of society. Members of a society must be socialized to support and maintain the existing social structure. From a functionalist perspective, individual conformity to existing norms is not taken for granted; rather, basic individual needs and desires must be bal- anced against the needs of the social structure. The socialization process is most effective when people conform to the norms of society because they believe that doing so is the best course of action. Socialization enables a society to “reproduce” itself by passing on its culture from one generation to the next.

Although the techniques used to teach newcom- ers the beliefs, values, and rules of behavior are somewhat similar in many nations, the content of socialization differs greatly from society to society. How people walk, talk, eat, make love, and wage war are all functions of the culture in which they are raised. At the same time, we are also influenced by our exposure to subcultures of class, race, eth- nicity, religion, and gender. In addition, each of us has unique experiences in our family and friendship groupings. The kind of human being that we become

depends greatly on the particular society and social groups that surround us at birth and during early childhood. What we believe about ourselves, our society, and the world does not spring full-blown from inside ourselves; rather, we learn these things from our interactions with others.

Human Development: Biology and Society What does it mean to be “human”? To be human includes being conscious of ourselves as individuals, with unique identities, personalities, and relation- ships with others. As humans, we have ideas, emo- tions, and values. We have the capacity to think and to make rational decisions. But what is the source of “humanness”? Are we born with these human characteristics, or do we develop them through our interactions with others?

When we are born, we are totally dependent on others for our survival. We cannot turn ourselves over, speak, reason, plan, or do many of the things that are associated with being human. Although we can nurse, wet, and cry, most small mammals can also do those things. As discussed in Chapter 3, we humans differ from nonhuman animals because we lack instincts and must rely on learning for our survival. Human infants have the potential to develop human characteristics if they are exposed to an adequate socialization process.

Every human being is a product of biology, society, and personal experiences—that is, of heredity and environment or, in even more basic terms, “nature” and “nurture.” How much of our development can be explained by socialization? How much by our genetic heritage? Sociologists focus on how humans design their own culture and transmit it from generation to generation through socialization. By contrast, socio- biologists assert that nature, in the form of our genetic makeup, is a major factor in shaping human behavior. Sociobiology is the systematic study of “social behavior from a biological perspective” (Wilson and Wilson, 2007: 328). According to the zoologist Edward O. Wilson, who pioneered sociobiology, genetic inheritance underlies many forms of social behavior, such as war and peace, envy of and concern for others, and competition and cooperation. Most sociologists disagree with the notion that biological principles can be used to explain all human behavior. Obviously, however, some aspects of our physical makeup—such as eye color, hair color, height, and weight—are largely determined by our heredity.

How important is social influence (“nurture”) in human development? There is hardly a single behav- ior that is not influenced socially. Except for simple reflexes, most human actions are social, either in their causes or in their consequences. Even solitary actions

● The kind of person we become depends greatly on the people who surround us. How will this boy’s life be shaped by his close and warm relationship with his mother?

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such as crying or brushing our teeth are ultimately social. We cry because someone has hurt us. We brush our teeth because our parents (or dentist) told us it was important. Social environment probably has a greater effect than heredity on the way we develop and the way we act. However, heredity does provide the basic material from which other people help to mold an individual’s human characteristics.

Our biological and emotional needs are related in a complex equation. Children whose needs are met in settings characterized by affection, warmth, and closeness see the world as a safe and comfort- able place and see other people as trustworthy and helpful. By contrast, infants and children who receive less-than-adequate care or who are emotionally rejected or abused often view the world as hostile and have feelings of suspicion and fear.

Problems Associated with Social Isolation and Maltreatment Social environment, then, is a crucial part of an individual’s socialization. Even nonhuman primates

such as monkeys and chimpanzees need social contact with others of their

species in order to develop properly. As we will see, appropriate social contact is even more important for humans.

Isolation and Nonhuman Primates Re- searchers have attempted to demonstrate the effects of social isolation on nonhuman primates raised without contact with others of their own species. In a series of laboratory experiments, the psycholo- gists Harry and Margaret Harlow (1962, 1977) took infant rhesus monkeys from their mothers and iso- lated them in separate cages. Each cage contained two nonliving “mother substitutes” made of wire, one with a feeding bottle attached and the other covered with soft terry cloth but without a bottle. The infant monkeys instinctively clung to the cloth “mother” and would not abandon it until hun- ger drove them to the bottle attached to the wire “mother.” As soon as they were full, they went back

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1. False. Studies have concluded that although professors are important in helping students learn about the academic side of the college experience, our friends and acquaintances help us adapt to higher education.

2. False. Slightly more than 85 percent of first-year students at four-year colleges report that they have studied with other students. Similar data are not available for students at two-year schools. How might data for this group differ?

3. True. The college environment is stressful for many students, who find that it is an abrupt change from high school because workloads increase, students are expected to manage their time independently, and grades are increasingly important for a person’s future endeavors.

4. True. The competitive nature of the admission process in law schools and medical schools virtually guarantees that new students will be surrounded by classmates who were exceptional students during their undergraduate years. However, this level of achievement may be a source of stimulation for some students rather than a source of stress.

5. True. Some amount of academic stress may be positive in helping students reach their academic and career goals; however, excessive academic stress may be detrimental if it results in high levels of psychological stress or problematic behaviors such as alcohol abuse.

6. False. Studies have found that stress levels among college students are higher than those of people entering a new occupation or profession. For this reason, students are encouraged to develop coping skills and build support networks of friends, family, and others.

7. False. Most research has not shown a significant relationship between the number of hours worked and levels of stress among students. Earning money for school and personal expenses appears to offset additional time and responsibility in the workplace.

8. True. The top stressors most frequently reported in college are getting good grades and completing schoolwork. However, first-year college students also report that changes in eating and sleeping habits, increased workloads and new responsibilities, and going home for holidays and other breaks are major sources of stress for them.

Sources: Campus Times, 2008; The Chronicle of Higher Education, 2011; Messenger, 2009; and Reuters News Service, 2008. © Cengage Learning.

ANSWERS to the Sociology Quiz on Socialization and the College Experience

and Everyday Life

sociobiology the systematic study of “social behavior from a biological perspective.”

Sociology

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to the cloth “mother” seeking warmth, affection, and physical comfort.

The Harlows’ experiments show the detrimental effects of isolation on nonhuman primates. When the young monkeys were later introduced to other members of their species, they cringed in the corner. Having been deprived of social contact during their first six months of life, they never learned how to relate to other monkeys or to become well-adjusted adults—they were fearful of or hostile toward other monkeys (Harlow and Harlow, 1962, 1977).

Because humans rely more heavily on social learning than do monkeys, the process of socializa- tion is even more important for us.

Isolated Children Of course, sociologists would never place children in isolated circumstances so that they could observe what happened to them. However, some cases have arisen in which parents or other caregivers failed to fulfill their responsi- bilities, leaving children alone or placing them in isolated circumstances. From analysis of these situ- ations, social scientists have documented cases in which children were deliberately raised in isolation. A look at the lives of two children who suffered such emotional abuse provides important insights into

the importance of a positive socialization process and the negative effects of social isolation.

Anna Born in 1932 in Pennsylvania to an unmar- ried, mentally impaired woman, Anna was an unwanted child. She was kept in an attic-like room in her grandfather’s house. Her mother, who worked on the farm all day and often went out at night, gave Anna just enough care to keep her alive; she received no other care. Sociologist Kingsley Davis (1940) described Anna’s condition when she was found in 1938:

[Anna] had no glimmering of speech, absolutely no ability to walk, no sense of gesture, not the least capacity to feed herself even when the food was put in front of her, and no comprehension of cleanliness. She was so apathetic that it was hard to tell whether or not she could hear. And all of this at the age of nearly six years.

When she was placed in a special school and given the necessary care, Anna slowly learned to walk, talk, and care for herself. Just before her death at the age of ten, Anna reportedly could follow directions, talk in phrases, wash her hands, brush her teeth, and try to help other children (Davis, 1940).

Genie About three decades later, Genie was found in 1970 at the age of thirteen. She had been locked in a bedroom alone, alternately strapped down to a child’s potty chair or straitjacketed into a sleep- ing bag, since she was twenty months old. She had been fed baby food and beaten with a wooden pad- dle when she whimpered. She had not heard the sounds of human speech because no one talked to her and there was no television or radio in her room (Curtiss, 1977; Pines, 1981). Genie was placed in a pediatric hospital, where one of the psychologists described her condition:

At the time of her admission she was virtually unsocialized. She could not stand erect, salivated continuously, had never been toilet-trained and had no control over her urinary or bowel func- tions. She was unable to chew solid food and had the weight, height and appearance of a child half her age. (Rigler, 1993: 35)

In addition to her physical condition, Genie showed psychological traits associated with neglect, as described by one of her psychiatrists:

If you gave [Genie] a toy, she would reach out and touch it, hold it, caress it with her fingertips, as though she didn’t trust her eyes. She would rub it against her cheek to feel it. So when I met her and she began to notice me standing beside her bed, I held my hand out and she reached out and took

● As Harry and Margaret Harlow discovered, humans are not the only primates that need contact with others. Deprived of its mother, this infant monkey found a substitute.

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my hand and carefully felt my thumb and fingers individually, and then put my hand against her cheek. She was exactly like a blind child. (Rymer, 1993: 45)

Extensive therapy was used in an attempt to socialize Genie and develop her language abilities (Curtiss, 1977; Pines, 1981). These efforts met with limited success: In the 1990s, Genie was living in a board- and-care home for retarded adults (see Angier, 1993; Rigler, 1993; Rymer, 1993).

Why do we discuss children who have been the victims of maltreatment in a chapter that looks at the socialization process? The answer lies in the fact that such cases are important to our understand- ing of the socialization process because they show the importance of this process and reflect how det- rimental social isolation and neglect can be to the well-being of people.

Child Maltreatment What do the terms child maltreatment and child abuse mean to you? When asked what constitutes child maltreatment, many people first think of cases that involve severe physical injuries or sexual abuse. However, neglect is the most frequent form of child maltreatment (Mattingly and Walsh, 2010). Child neglect occurs when children’s

basic needs—including emotional warmth and secu- rity, adequate shelter, food, health care, education, clothing, and protection—are not met, regardless of cause (Mattingly and Walsh, 2010). Neglect often involves acts of omission (where parents or caregiv- ers fail to provide adequate physical or emotional care for children) rather than acts of commission (such as physical or sexual abuse). Neglect is the most common type of maltreatment among children under age eighteen (see ● Figure 4.1). Of course, what constitutes child maltreatment differs from society to society.

Social Psychological Theories of Human Development Over the past hundred years, a variety of psycholog- ical and sociological theories have been developed not only to explain child abuse but also to describe how a positive process of socialization occurs. Although these are not sociological theories, it is important to be aware of the contributions of Freud, Piaget, Kohlberg, and Gilligan because knowing about them provides us with a framework for com- paring various perspectives on human development.

Freud and the Psychoanalytic Perspective The basic assumption in Sigmund Freud’s (1924) psychoanalytic approach is that human behavior and personality originate from unconscious forces within individuals. Freud (1856–1939), who is known as the founder of psychoanalytic theory, developed his major theories in the Victorian era, when biologi- cal explanations of human behavior were prevalent. For example, Freud based his ideas on the belief that people have two basic tendencies: the urge to survive and the urge to procreate.

Neglect 78.3%

Physical abuse 17.8% Sexual abuse 9.5%

Psychological maltreatment 7.5%

Medical neglect 2.4%

Other 9.6%

● FIGURE 4.1 TYPES OF MALTREATMENT AMONG CHILDREN UNDER AGE 18* *A child may have suffered from multiple forms of maltreatment and was counted once for each maltreatment type.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2011, “Child Health USA 2011.”

● A victim of extreme child abuse, Genie was isolated from human contact and tortured until she was rescued at the age of thirteen. What are the consequences to children of isolation and physical abuse, as contrasted with social interaction and parental affection? Sociologists emphasize that the social environment is a crucial part of an individual’s socialization.

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According to Freud (1924), human development occurs in three states that reflect different levels of the personality, which he referred to as the id, ego, and superego. The id is the component of person- ality that includes all of the individual’s basic biological drives and needs that demand imme- diate gratification. For Freud, the newborn child’s personality is all id, and from birth the child finds that urges for self-gratification—such as wanting to be held, fed, or changed—are not going to be satis- fied immediately. However, id remains with people throughout their life in the form of psychic energy, the urges and desires that account for behavior.

By contrast, the second level of personality—the ego—develops as infants discover that their most basic desires are not always going to be met by others.

The ego is the rational, reality-oriented component of personality that imposes restrictions on the innate pleasure-seeking drives of the id. The ego chan- nels the desire of the id for immediate gratification into the most advantageous direction for the individ- ual. The third level of personality—the superego—is in

● Jean Piaget, a pioneer in the field of cognitive development.

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Ego “I guess I’ll have

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bar, no matter what!”

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● FIGURE 4.2 FREUD’S THEORY OF PERSONALITY This illustration shows how Freud might picture a person’s internal conflict over whether to commit an antisocial act such as stealing a candy bar. In addition to dividing personality into three components, Freud theorized that our personalities are largely unconscious— hidden from our normal awareness. To dramatize his point, Freud compared conscious awareness (portions of the ego and superego) to the visible tip of an iceberg. Most of personality— including the id, with its raw desires and impulses—lies submerged in our subconscious. © Cengage Learning

● Sigmund Freud, founder of the psychoanalytic perspective.

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● FIGURE 4.3 THE PREOPERATIONAL STAGE Psychologist Jean Piaget identified four stages of cognitive development, including the preoperational stage, in which children have limited ability to realize that physical objects may change in shape or appearance. Piaget showed children two identical beakers filled with the same amount of water. After the children agreed that both beakers held the same amount of water, Piaget poured the water from one beaker into a taller, narrower beaker and then asked them about the amounts of water in each beaker. Those still in the preoperational stage believed that the taller beaker held more water because the water line was higher than in the shorter, wider beaker.

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id Sigmund Freud’s term for the component of personality that includes all of the individual’s basic biological drives and needs that demand immediate gratification.

ego Sigmund Freud’s term for the rational, reality-oriented component of personality that imposes restrictions on the innate pleasure-seeking drives of the id.

superego Sigmund Freud’s term for the conscience, consisting of the moral and ethical aspects of personality.

opposition to both the id and the ego. The superego, or conscience, consists of the moral and ethical aspects of personality. It is first expressed as the recognition of parental control and eventually matures as the child learns that parental control is a reflection of the val- ues and moral demands of the larger society. When a person is well adjusted, the ego successfully man- ages the opposing forces of the id and the superego. ● Figure 4.2 illustrates Freud’s theory of personality.

Piaget and Cognitive Development Jean Piaget (1896–1980), a Swiss psychologist, was a pioneer in the field of cognitive (intellectual) devel- opment. Cognitive theorists are interested in how people obtain, process, and use information—that is, in how we think. Cognitive development relates to changes over time in how we think.

Piaget (1954) believed that in each stage of devel- opment (from birth through adolescence), chil- dren’s activities are governed by their perception of the world around them. His four stages of cognitive development are organized around specific tasks that, when mastered, lead to the acquisition of new mental capacities, which then serve as the basis for the next level of development. Piaget emphasized that all children must go through each stage in sequence before moving on to the next one, although some children move through them faster than others. 1. Sensorimotor stage (birth to age two). During

this period, children understand the world only through sensory contact and immediate action because they cannot engage in symbolic thought or use language. Toward the end of the second year, children comprehend object permanence; in other words, they start to realize that objects

continue to exist even when the items are out of sight.

2. Preoperational stage (age two to seven). In this stage, children begin to use words as mental sym- bols and to form mental images. However, they are still limited in their ability to use logic to solve problems or to realize that physical objects may change in shape or appearance while still retain- ing their physical properties (see ● Figure 4.3).

3. Concrete operational stage (age seven to eleven). During this stage, children think in terms of tangi- ble objects and actual events. They can draw con- clusions about the likely physical consequences of an action without always having to try the action out. Children begin to take the role of others and start to empathize with the viewpoints of others.

4. Formal operational stage (age twelve through adolescence). By this stage, adolescents are able to engage in highly abstract thought and under- stand places, things, and events they have never seen. They can think about the future and evalu- ate different options or courses of action.

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Kohlberg and the Stages of Moral Development Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987) elaborated on Piaget’s theories of cognitive reasoning by conduct- ing a series of studies in which children, adolescents, and adults were presented with moral dilemmas that took the form of stories. Based on his findings, Kohlberg (1969, 1981) classified moral reasoning into three sequential levels: 1. Preconventional level (age seven to ten). Children’s

perceptions are based on punishment and obedi- ence. Evil behavior is that which is likely to be punished; good conduct is based on obedience and avoidance of unwanted consequences.

2. Conventional level (age ten through adulthood). People are most concerned with how they are perceived by their peers and with how one con- forms to rules.

3. Postconventional level (few adults reach this stage). People view morality in terms of indi- vidual rights; “moral conduct” is judged by prin- ciples based on human rights that transcend government and laws.

Gilligan’s View on Gender and Moral Development Psychologist Carol Gilligan (b. 1936) noted that both Piaget and Kohlberg did not take into account how gender affects the process of social and moral devel- opment. According to Gilligan (1982), Kohlberg’s model was developed solely on the basis of research with male respondents, who often have different views from women on morality. Gilligan believes that men become more concerned with law and order but that women tend to analyze social relationships and the social consequences of behavior. Gilligan argues that men are more likely to use abstract standards of right and wrong when making moral decisions, whereas women are more likely to be concerned about the con- sequences of behavior. Does this constitute a “moral deficiency” on the part of either women or men? Not according to Gilligan, who believes that people make moral decisions according to both abstract principles of justice and principles of compassion and care.

Sociological Theories of Human Development Although social scientists acknowledge the contribu- tions of social–psychological explanations of human development, sociologists believe that it is important

to bring a sociological perspective to bear on how people develop an aware-

ness of self and learn about the culture in which they

live. Let’s look at symbolic interactionist, functional, and conflict approaches to describing the socializa- tion process and its outcomes.

Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives According to a symbolic interactionist approach to socialization, we cannot form a sense of self or per- sonal identity without intense social contact with others. How do we develop ideas about who we are? How do we gain a sense of self? The self represents the sum total of perceptions and feelings that an individual has of being a distinct, unique person—a sense of who and what one is. When we speak of the “self,” we typically use words such as I, me, my, mine, and myself (Cooley, 1998/1902). This sense of self (also referred to self-concept) is not present at birth; it arises in the process of social experience. Self-concept is the totality of our beliefs and feelings about our- selves. Four components make up our self-concept: (1) the physical self (“I am tall”), (2) the active self (“I am good at soccer”), (3) the social self (“I am nice to others”), and (4) the psychological self (“I believe in world peace”). Between early and late childhood, a child’s focus tends to shift from the physical and active dimensions of self toward the social and psy- chological aspects. Self-concept is the foundation for communication with others; it continues to develop and change throughout our lives.

Our self-identity is our perception about what kind of person we are and our awareness of our unique identity. Self-identity emerges when we ask the question “Who am I?” Factors such as individu- ality, uniqueness, and personal characteristics and personality are components of self-identity. As we have seen, socially isolated children do not have typical self-identities because they have had no experience of “humanness.” According to symbolic interactionists, we do not know who we are until we see ourselves as we believe that others see us. The perspectives of symbolic interactionists Charles Horton Cooley and George Herbert Mead help us understand how our self-identity is developed through our interactions with others.

Cooley: Looking-Glass Self Charles Horton Cooley (1864–1929) was one of the first U.S. soci- ologists to describe how we learn about ourselves through social interaction with other people. Cooley used the concept of the looking-glass self to describe how the self emerges. The looking-glass self refers to the way in which a person’s sense of self is derived from the perceptions of others. Our looking-glass self is based on our perception of how other people think of us (Cooley, 1998/1902). As ●  Figure 4.4 shows, the looking-glass self is a self-concept derived from a three-step process:

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1. We imagine how our personality and appearance will look to other people.

2. We imagine how other people judge the appear- ance and personality that we think we present.

3. We develop a self-concept. If we think the evalu- ation of others is favorable, our self-concept is enhanced. If we think the evaluation is unfavor- able, our self-concept is diminished. (Cooley, 1998/1902) Since the looking-glass self is based on how

we imagine other people view us, we may develop self-concepts based on an inaccurate perception of what other individuals think about us. Consider, for example, the individual who believes that other people see him or her as “fat” when, in actuality, he or she is a person of an average height, weight, and build. The consequences of such a false percep- tion may lead to excessive dieting or health prob- lems such as anorexia, bulimia, and other eating disorders.

Mead: Role-Taking and Stages of the Self George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) extended Cooley’s insights by linking the idea of self-concept to role-taking—the process by which a person mentally assumes the role of another person or group in order to understand the world from that person’s or group’s point of view. Role-taking often occurs through play and games, as children

try out different roles (such as being mommy, daddy, doctor, or teacher) and gain an apprecia- tion of them. First, people come to take the role of the other (role-taking). By taking the roles of others, the individual hopes to ascertain the inten- tion or direction of the acts of others. Then the person begins to construct his or her own roles (role- making) and to anticipate other individuals’ responses. Finally, the person plays at her or his particular role (role-playing).

According to Mead (1934), children in the early months of life do not realize that they are separate from others. However, they do begin early on to see a mirrored image of themselves in others. Shortly after birth, infants start to notice the faces of those around them, especially the significant others, whose faces start to have meaning because they are associ- ated with experiences such as feeding and cuddling.

● FIGURE 4.4 HOW THE LOOKING-GLASS SELF WORKS © Cengage Learning

We imagine how we appear to other people.

We imagine how other people judge the appearance that we think we present.

If we think the evaluation is favorable, our self-concept is enhanced.

If we think the evaluation is unfavorable, our self- concept is diminished.

self-concept the totality of our beliefs and feelings about ourselves.

looking-glass self Charles Horton Cooley’s term for the way in which a person’s sense of self is derived from the perceptions of others.

role-taking the process by which a person mentally assumes the role of another person or group in order to understand the world from that person’s or group’s point of view.

Copyright 2013 Cengage Learning. All Rights Reserved. May not be copied, scanned, or duplicated, in whole or in part. Due to electronic rights, some third party content may be suppressed from the eBook and/or eChapter(s). Editorial review has deemed that any suppressed content does not materially affect the overall learning experience. Cengage Learning reserves the right to remove additional content at any time if subsequent rights restrictions require it.

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Significant others are those persons whose care, affection, and approval are especially desired and who are most important in the development of the self. Gradually, we distinguish ourselves from our caregivers and begin to perceive ourselves in contrast to them. As we develop language skills and learn to understand symbols, we begin to develop a self-concept. When we can represent ourselves in our minds as objects distinct from everything else, our self has been formed.

According to Mead (1934), the self has two sides, which he divided into the “me” and the “I.” The “me” is what is learned by interaction with others in the

larger social environment; it is the organized set of attitudes of others that an individual assumes. The “me” is the objective element of the self, which rep- resents an internalization of the expectations and attitudes of others and the individual’s awareness of those demands. By contrast, the “I” is the person’s individuality—it is the response of the person to the attitudes of other individuals; We might think of the “me” as the social self and the “I” as the response to the “me.” According to Mead, the “I” develops first, and the “me” takes form during the three stages of self-development: 1. During the preparatory stage, up to about age

three, interactions lack meaning, and children largely imitate the people around them, particu- larly parents and other family members. At this stage, children are preparing for role-taking.

2. In the play stage, from about age three to five, children learn to use language and other symbols, thus enabling them to pretend to take the roles of specific people. At this stage, they begin to see themselves in relation to others, but they do not see role-taking as something they have to do.

3. During the game stage, which begins in the early school years, children understand not only their own social position but also the positions of others around them. In contrast to play, games are struc- tured by rules, are often competitive, and involve a number of other “players.” At this time, chil- dren become concerned about the demands and expectations of others and of the larger society. Mead’s concept of the generalized other refers to

the child’s awareness of the demands and expecta- tions of the society as a whole or of the child’s sub- culture. According to Mead, the generalized other is evident when a person takes into account other people and groups when he or she speaks or acts. In sum, both the “I” and the “me” are needed to form the social self. The unity of the two (the “general- ized other”) constitutes the full development of the individual and a more thorough understanding of the social world.

How useful are symbolic interactionist perspec- tives in enhancing our understanding of the social- ization process? This approach has made a positive contribution to our understanding of how the self develops (see “Sociology Works!”).

More-Recent Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives The symbolic interactionist ap- proach emphasizes that socialization is a collective process in which children are active and creative agents, not just passive recipients of the socializa- tion process. From this view, childhood is a socially constructed category. As children acquire language

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