After reading this essay you will learn about the aspects of dependence process of a child.
The new-born infant has to depend on the mother for food, protection from dangers and wide variations in temperature, etc., for its survival. Thus, from the moment of birth the child is enmeshed in social relationships. This is how the socialization demands of the adults can be successfully applied on the child. It is the infant’s dependence on the mother that provides the essential condition for socialization.
The mother ‘conditions’ the child to expect food at certain regular intervals and to adopt the customary pattern of sleeping at night. Through reinforcement the mother makes certain responses of the child rewarding and certain other responses not rewarding; this ensures that certain responses are forthcoming.
This is how the helpless infant is transformed into a member of the home. But it must be remembered that much of what the child learns in the process of growing up is not systematically and deliberately taught. The parents do not take the role of the teachers. This is the phenomenon of incidental learning.
According to Sears (1957), it is through dependence that the process of identification develops. Because the mother initially satisfies the biological needs, the child becomes dependent on her. He adopts many of her actions because they are self-reinforcing. Dependency is strengthened by occasional withdrawal of mother’s love; for example when she is absent, attending to other duties in the house.
Then the child performs some of the actions of the mother to achieve satisfaction. According to Sears, if the mother is always present and nurturant, the child will have little occasion to copy her action in order to obtain self-reinforcement; similarly if she is not nurturant or is disapproving or punitive, the child will not be motivated to reproduce her actions.
Thus, the motive to identify is achieved when the child is given affection and nurturance which are periodically withdrawn so that the child will be rewarded by reproducing the mother’s behaviour.
Another aspect of the dependence process is the fact that the child, at a later age, is very dependent on the parents for information about the environment, its meaning and his possibilities for action in it. Though he learns much about his surroundings through his own manipulative exploration, he also depends on the communications from others; he seeks clarification from others.
Thus, we may think of two kinds of dependence:
(a) Effect-dependence—dependence on others for the provision of food, protection, etc., the control of rewards and punishments; and
(b) Information-dependence, the provision of information regarding the objects, persons, events, etc., the control of the child’s cognitive structure.
By selectively presenting certain explanations for events the socializing agents can influence the child’s conception of reality and his interpretation of his experiences. It is obvious that the parents play a very important role both with respect to the control of stimuli that reinforce the child, and for selecting particular responses of which the child is capable of, and with respect to his information, outlook, attitudes, etc., regarding the world and the events in the world.
The Reference Group:
As the child grows up, the socializing process is increasingly affected by the actions of the persons outside the family. The teachers as well as the members of the peer group play a very important role. The growing child and the adolescent become members of many groups and are influenced by the members of those groups.
However, it must be recognized that all these groups are not equally important or influential in the formation of attitudes in the individual. Some groups like the caste group, the creedal group etc., are much more important in the present Indian society. This is why the concept of “reference group” has now become important to explain how some groups rather than others have more profound influence on the individual.
A reference group is one in terms of which the individual views or evaluates himself; it is the group which provides the standards for evaluation. The more important the reference group, the greater will be the influence of its standards and norms on the individual. Hyman (1942) first used the concept of reference group in a study of subjective social status.
Newcomb (1943) found the reference group concept useful in tracing the changes in student attitudes that accompanied socialization in a college. Since the reference group serves a normative function, the individual is dependent on the members of these groups for esteem-building-rewards and approbation. He makes use of the information provided by the opinions. Values and actions of the group members. The reference groups, like the family group, influence the conduct as well as the information of the individual.