Soc 101: Introduction to Sociology (Carr)
Wednesday February 17, 2010
B. What is socialization?
1. Socialization is the life-long process of learning to become human, learning to socially
interact, and learning the rules of society. In the process, individuals learn skills, knowledge,
motives, and roles appropriate to their position in a group or society.
2. The individual is the “learner” or “target.”
The “teacher” or socializing agent may
include the family, the peer group, the school system, the media, work colleagues, etc. These are
the people/institutions who teach the individual how to behave in any given role.
3. The learning process, or socialization process occurs over the life course. Although the
basic “lessons” of socialization occur during childhood, individuals are continually learning
about norms and rules guiding their behavior in various settings. The things we learn in the
socialization process are called
C. Outcomes of socialization - tasks and behaviors that seem almost intuitive or “natural”
are often learned, through the socialization process. We are going to focus two specific
outcomes: gender roles, and moral development/moral reasoning.
1. Gender roles. A gender role is the behavioral expectation associated with one’s gender.
The transmission of gender roles is an important topic, because often the role is not
INTENTIONALLY taught. Rather, subtle cues from parents, teachers, peers and media guide
gender role behavior. This is one area where parents’ influence may be eclipsed by the role of
school, peers, and media. Often parents will say that they raised both boys and girls similarly,
and that when - over time - boys become aggressive and girls become passive - these differences
may blithely be attributed to “human nature.” An alternative explanation is that the many agents
of socialization may perpetuate traditional gender-role behavior.
a. Role of parents: Children learn by interacting with parents, who reward behavior
consistent with gender roles and punish behavior inconsistent with these standards. However,
parents often send very subtle messages about gender to their children, and often do so
i. Evidence, babies: Studies of parents interacting with infants show that parents
interact differently with baby boys and girls. A study by Rubin et al. (1974) focused on how
parents interacted with their brand-new (one-day old babies). Parents were asked to describe
their babies, and were given lists of adjectives that they could choose from to describe the babies.
Both mothers and fathers described their sons as firmer, stronger, larger featured, better co-
ordinated, and more alert. They described their daughters as softer, weaker, prettier and more
inattentive. Importantly, objective measures of the infants showed no real differences in terms of
height, weight, strength, etc. The researchers concluded that parents’ perceptions about