After reading this article you will learn about the process of socialisation.
The human infant at birth is certainly born with certain innate capacities which will ensure its survival provided the minimum support from the environment is available, mostly biological. But these capacities to react to various stimulations from the environment, take quite some time to develop, and so do his sensory and motor abilities.
The sensory-motor abilities take a considerable time to develop and depend on the processes of growth, maturation and stimulation. From the point of view of social behaviour, there is very little present at birth. It takes some time for the infant to acquire even the most elementary response of smiling at the mother.
How contrasting is this, from the complex and varied social behaviour of the grown up individual. The non-social or a social infant, gradually gets transformed into an adult, entering into complex, complicated and varied types of social interactions. Such transformation leaves one very often wondering about its, how, what and why.
This transformation of the non-social or asocial infant into a complex and socialised adult is a result of the impact of continuous and varied interactions and experiences in relation to the environment, particularly the other people in the environment, both directly and indirectly experienced. This process which brings about such a transformation is known as socialisation.
Here we can see that there are two sides to this process. On the one hand, the individual gradually acquires social skills, interactional patterns, values, attitudes etc., which make him capable and competent to deal effectively with the environment, particularly in his dealings with others.
On the other, the society or culture is able to transmit its standards, values and norms, to the younger members, thereby ensuring its continuity. Thus, we see, that there is an individual dimension as well as a social dimension to the process of socialisation.
The process of socialisation enables and empowers a child to live, adjust and deal effectively with others, while at the same time, it also a serves the purpose of the society or the culture by ensuring its continuity. We may therefore describe the process of socialisation as the complex, varied and continuous sets of interactions between an individual and his environment, particularly the human environment, which influence and enable an individual to achieve social competence leading to social effectiveness, while at the same time enabling a particular society or culture to ensure its continuance.
These two aspects or dimensions of the process of socialisation are brought out clearly in the following attempts to define socialisation. Brine defines socialisation as “the process by which individuals acquire knowledge, skills and dispositions that enable them to participate as more or less effective members of groups and societies”. This above definition lays emphasis on the impact of society and different agencies of society on the changes in behaviour’ occurring in an individual.
Some authors take exception to this as being purely one sided, totally overlooking the impact of the socialised individuals on the adults involved in the process of socialisation, and thereby on the group itself. These theorists further do not subscribe to the view which regards the socialised individuals as passive.
They argue that the process of socialisation is a two-sided process and that an adequate definition should clearly bring out this fact. The socialised child, very often causes changes in the behaviour of parents and other socializing agencies. In fact it may be seen that even pet animals influence and condition the behaviour and responses of the masters.
In view of this, Goslin defines socialisation “as the process whereby individuals learn to play various social roles necessary for effective participation in the society i.e. they acquire knowledge, skills and dispositions that enable them to perform in accordance with the expectations of the others, as they move from position to position in the social order, over time, from infant to child, to adult, from student to worker, from son or daughter to husband or wife, to father or mother, and they occupy several positions simultaneously; e.g., adult worker, son, husband, citizen”. This definition tends to highlight two points.
First, it highlights the points that the process of socialisation involves interaction and that the infant also influences the mother. Of course, the definition also highlights the fact that the process of socialisation is a life-span process and does not come to an end, abruptly at any particular stage.
Gostlen further proceeds to define the concept of Role Negotiation (RN). According to this concept, adaptation situations where the roles or behaviour patterns are not totally and comprehensively spelt out, the process of socialisation involves subtle negotiation and arriving at certain contracts, between the socialised and the socializing. Of course, very often such processes of negotiation are nonverbal and unconscious. The nature of the negotiation varies depending on a number of factors like the infants capacities, level of cognitive skills etc.