Socialization is a fundamental concept in sociology which describes the way in which human beings learn to function within their society. It can be defined as the way that social order is maintained through a learning process that encompasses culture, social norms and roles and the accepted behaviors of society. The process of socialization takes into account someone's status; a person may have several statuses that relate to their age, sex or religion for example. Each of these will have a role attached to it. Hence in order for an individual to become socialized and function in society, they must learn to recognize these statuses and roles, in themselves and also in others.

Socialization occurs in childhood and continues into adulthood. For example, an immigrant will be immersed in a new culture and must acquire knowledge about the ways of that culture in order to function within it. This is known as resocialization and involves the individual learning and internalizing of the appropriate patterns, values and feelings that are expected of him or her. This could also occur when a new employee has to adapt to the established traditions and culture of a different organization.

Another aspect of socialization is behavior patterns, otherwise known as norms, which are inherent in a given social group. Institutions play a major role in the socialization process and each generation is conditioned to follow the behavior patterns appropriate to that institution. For example, a school is usually rich in traditions that establish the status of its teachers and the expectations of attendance. Its fundamental purpose is to transmit the ‘intellectual tendencies' of society.

When studying socialization, subdivisions such as social class and ethnic group also come into play. Certain social strata are associated with different social habits, such as the case of someone from the upper classes enjoying a visit to an art gallery. This would perhaps not always be to the taste of an individual from a lower class, although of course this is a generalization. Meanwhile, ethnic groups overlap somewhat with social class and status. These distinct groups may preserve part of their ethnic identity such as holiday rituals, foods and folklore but will nevertheless assimilate more or less with the society around them.

Socialization, despite being steeped in tradition, is not static. Social changes such as the emancipation of women or an individual's rise to a higher social group can change not only the socialization of the individual but also the shape of society. When a child is developing social skills, he or she must learn a range of social expectations and boundaries that will allow for such change. In children, socialization is particularly important because the child is learning skills that will affect their whole lives. The process impacts on the development of the personality, on life choices and the relationships they may form.

For the most part socialization occurs from the top down, with roles being reproduced in the individual from generation to generation according to various social norms. There is some academic debate about the reverse, which examines an individual's ability to negotiate and redefine social roles. In this instance, socialization may take a less rigid form and the process is less predetermined by accepted cultural and social givens.

The family and particularly the mother, or equivalent caregiver, is the primary socializing agent for a child. This environment is the first social structure a child will experience and it is where most of the social behavior of a child will be learned. Parental restrictions or influence will also play a role in determining what other socializing agents the child will have access to. There will be a period when a certain level of socialization is achieved. New elements will be added to this in the future, which require further adjustment.

Other socializing agents include teachers, peer groups and schools. The mass media also plays a part and religious groups can be a major influencing factor. At the top of this socialization process is the government, which plays a role in determining what is and is not learned. A good example here would be in setting the curriculum. The government also plays a wider role in dictating what types of behaviors are acceptable in society by the enactment of laws.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

The Socializing Instincts: Individual, Family, and Social Bonds
Andrew L. Cherry.
Praeger Publishers, 1994
The Cultural Nature of Human Development
Barbara Rogoff.
Oxford University Press, 2003
Early Socialisation: Sociability and Attachment
Cara Flanagan.
Routledge, 1999
Integrative Processes and Socialization: Early to Middle Childhood
Thomas D. Yawkey; James E. Johnson.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1988
Socialization Agents and Activities of Young Adolescents
Arnon, Sara; Shamai, Shmuel; Ilatov, Zinaida.
Adolescence, Vol. 43, No. 170, Summer 2008
Children's Communication and Socialization Skills by Types of Early Education Experiences
Lee, Joohi; Fox, Jill.
Journal of Research in Childhood Education, Vol. 23, No. 4, Summer 2009
Child, Parent, and Situational Correlates of Familial Ethnic/Race Socialization
Brown, Tony N.; Tanner-Smith, Emily E.; Lesane-Brown, Chase L.; Ezell, Michael E.
Journal of Marriage and Family, Vol. 69, No. 1, February 2007
Iterative Socialization: A Model of Individual Behavior and Information Acquisition Processes
Wilson, Robert D.
Business Renaissance Quarterly, Vol. 3, No. 4, Winter 2008
Net Generation: A Conceptual Framework of the Consumer Socialization Process
Luczak, Cheryl; Younkin, Neil.
Academy of Marketing Studies Journal, Vol. 16, No. 2, July 1, 2012
The Social Logic of Politics: Personal Networks as Contexts for Political Behavior
Alan S. Zuckerman.
Temple University Press, 2005
Memorable Messages and Newcomer Socialization
Barge, J. Kevin; Schlueter, David W.
Western Journal of Communication, Vol. 68, No. 3, Summer 2004
Socialization, Resocialization, and Communication Relationships in the Context of an Organizational Change
Hart, Zachary P.; Miller, Vernon D.; Johnson, John R.
Communication Studies, Vol. 54, No. 4, Winter 2003
Raising Racists: The Socialization of White Children in the Jim Crow South
Kristina Durocher.
University Press of Kentucky, 2011
Entertainment & Politics: The Influence of Pop Culture on Young Adult Political Socialization
David J. Jackson.
Peter Lang, 2002
Dinner Talk: Cultural Patterns of Sociability and Socialization in Family Discourse
Shoshana Blum-Kulka.
Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 1997
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