This article throws light upon the primary and secondary agencies of socialisation:- 1. The Home or the Family 2. The Neighbourhood and Community 3. The Peer Group 4. Social Class 5. Religion 6. Culture.
Agency # 1. The Home or the Family:
Every child is born into a family. The home or family is the first social agency with which the child comes into contact. Interactions with other members of the family, parents, siblings and others, have a lasting influence on the personality of the child and his social behaviour.
The role of the family, particularly the parents, in shaping the social behavioural pattern of the child was highlighted for the first time by Freud. No doubt, the similarities among parents and children in their behavioural pattern was noticed much earlier. But very often it was assumed that this was due to genetic or hereditary factors. It was Freud, who for the first time analysed this phenomenon and showed that genetic and hereditary factors are not responsible for this phenomenon.
Using the formulations of psychoanalytic theory, Freud attempted to explain the impact of parental behaviour, parental attitudes and early childhood experiences on the development of the personality and social behaviour of the child. “The family is the society in miniature”, observed Freud. The above statement highlights the crucial role of the family in the socialisation process.
A human child compared to the young animal is much more dependent on the family and for a much longer time. This fact to a large extent is responsible for the enduring and significant role of the home in the process of socialisation. Psychoanalytic theory of personality development attempted to highlight, how even such basic and apparently non-social interactions like feeding behaviour, toilet training and other forms of child rearing practices, can very much influence the child’s style and manner of social behaviour.
Freud’s original findings in this regard were based on clinical experiences. Subsequently, several studies were undertaken on child rearing practices in different communities and societies, with the purpose of understanding the relationship between prevalent child rearing practices and the nature of the adult character.
Researches were undertaken along different channels. On the one hand psychologists and psychoanalysts carried out researches to show that different types of mental disorders could be related to early childhood and child experiences and child rearing practices. Rene Spitz coined the term ‘schizophrenogenic mothers’ in explaining the etiology of schizophrenia. It was argued that mothers who are over indulgent and over-protective tend to pre-dispose the children to develop into schizophrenics.
Studies on normal children, by Sears, Baldwin and others, have brought out evidence to show that extreme shades of child rearing attitudes and practices on the part of the parents have a definite influence in shaping the social behaviour of children. Some of the behavioural patterns which have been investigated in this direction are authoritarianism, aggressiveness and dependency.
It has been found that aggressive social behaviour on the part of certain individuals is definitely associated with certain specific patterns of child rearing. Similarly, dependency is another social behavioural characteristic which has been investigated extensively.
An individual who is over-aggressive in his behaviour is often so, because he himself was at the receiving end as a child of a very aggressive and over dominant mother. It is often said that ‘an ill-treated daughter-in-law becomes a cruel mother-in-law’. Psychologists have also studied the phenomenon called ‘learnt helplessness’.
People, who are highly helpless and dependent are very often so, because they have been either overprotected and overindulged and as a consequence have not learnt to be independent and accept responsibilities, or because; they have been rejected and not cared for, not receiving any attention or warmth during the rearing practice.
Researches in this context have perhaps not been able to establish a consistent set of relationships between child rearing practices and other social behaviour. Nevertheless, there is enough evidence to show that the socialisation process at home during early childhood years leaves an indelible impression and influence on the adult social behaviour of the child.
Agency # 2. The Neighbourhood and Community:
Every family lives in a community. This provides the base for an individual to extend social relations and interactions beyond the narrow limits of the home. This is particularly true of villages where there is much more interaction among the various families. In view of this, it is only natural that the community should play an important role in influencing the process of socialisation. The neighbourhood uncles and aunties are a source of social learning.
It is more, if the member families of a community have been living together for a long time. In a way, the neighbourhood community can be regarded as a primary agency of socialisation, next in importance only to the home. Apart from one’s own parents, adults in the neighbourhood also exert an influence in the shaping of the social behaviour of the growing child.
Agency # 3. The Peer Group:
The term peer group means the group of equals with whom a child interacts. This can be a play group or a classroom group or any group of people more or less of the same age and growth level. The role of the peer group in the process of socialisation is quite significant. The peer group influence attains its highest level of influence during the teenagers.
Freud observed that during this period named by him as the ‘latency period’ the process of socialisation is very fast and very intense. Sullivan called this stage the ‘Juvenile era’. According to Sullivan the process of socialisation proceeds with maximum intensity during this period.
This age has also been called the ‘gang’ age by some people. Peer group influence is evident in the development of interests, values, communication styles etc. Similarly sharing behaviour and a sense of ‘right and wrong’ are areas where peer group influence is felt.
Peer group influence can also be negative. Very often children develop negativistic attitudes and deviant patterns of behaviour as a result of peer group influence. It has been found that juvenile delinquents very often function as gangs. The importance of peer group influence can be readily seen when we compare the social behaviour of students who stayed in hostels with those who have not stayed in hostels.
Agency # 4. Social Class:
Social class or what we may call ‘socio-economic class’ is another factor which plays a crucial role in the process of socialisation. This is natural because child rearing habits adopted by parents, vary according to the social class.
In addition, the nature of life at home also differs according to the social class. A child from a home belonging to higher social class gets more exposure to media like newspapers, magazines and television and is therefore more open to secondary socialisation.
This is not the case with children hailing from families belonging to lower income groups. Further, the’ kinds of people with whom members of a particular family interact also depends on the social class. Children from upper class homes travel more, read more, attend parties with their parents and visit clubs more compared to children from lower income groups.
All these factors contribute to differences in the socialisation process and ultimately bring about different types of social behaviour. Thorstein Veblen has propounded a theory which he calls the theory of “leisure class”.
According to him, “in today’s world, people from higher income groups place a considerable value in ‘conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure”. People from the higher income groups not only consume more, they would like this to be noticed by others.
Psychologists have also discussed the ‘middle class syndrome’. It has been observed that a middle class culture is much more puritanical with an emphasis on rigid adherence to traditional principles of morality. They have also been described as more ambitious, entrepreneurial and growth-oriented.
Studies have also shown that children from lower classes acquire a sense of independence and self-reliance much faster than children from higher income groups. Children from higher income groups have often been found to be more dependent. Thus, it may be seen that the social class to which a child belongs has a great deal of influence in guiding the process of socialisation and ultimately the social behaviour of the person. At the same time, it can also be seen that it is the middle class which readily forsakes values.
Agency # 5. Religion:
Religion is another agency which is involved in the process of socialisation, particularly in the development of values and attitudes. The reader might have come across the term ‘Protestant Ethic’, used to describe values, attitudes and orientation of certain groups of people who subscribe to the faith of Protestants. Thus the values, attitudes and orientations of the people in the U.S.A. is generally described as representing the ‘Protestant Ethic’.
Agency # 6. Culture:
The reader may recall that while discussing the emergence of the cross cultural perspective, reference was made to the importance of culture in shaping behaviour. Culture is defined as the manmade part of our environment. The importance of culture in shaping the personality and social behaviour of the individual was first emphasised by anthropologists and subsequently by psychoanalysts.
Culture is a very broad term. People belonging to different religions may share the same culture; thus we talk of an Oriental culture, Semitic culture, Teutonic culture etc., or perhaps for that matter even the Aryan culture. There are many things which people living in the Orient share in spite of differences among themselves, and which marks them as different from the occidental people.
There are many things common to the people of India whether they are Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Parsis or Sikhs. Culture plays a very important role in providing a base for the process of socialisation and also for bringing about similarities in personality and social behaviour.
Abram Kardiner came out with a concept of ‘basic personality structure’. The term basic personality structure implies that in any culture people tend to develop a basic common system of values, attitudes motivations etc., in-spite of differences. Culture shapes the basic character of the individual.