Socialization can be defined from a dictionary as “ a continuing process whereby an individual person acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior and social skills appropriate to his or her social position”. Socialization is a continuous life process, but is in general divided into two very distinct groups: primary socialization and secondary socialization. But has socialization changed over the years? If so, what has been the driving force behind this change? Could it be because of the difference in the primary socialization in the home?
Or perhaps the multicultural society in which we now live? Socialization occurs throughout life but is most effective in infancy and early childhood.
Primary socialization occurs in the home between the parent and child. It is a process by which a child learns the cultural norms from their parents. Primary social groups are small intimate groups which include family, close friends, work colleagues and neighbors. It is from everyday group living with the family that a child gets his or her first introduction to acceptable norms of behavior, values, and morals.
Ely Chinoy, in a 1960s standard textbook on sociology, says that socialization serves two major functions: On the one hand, it prepares the individual for the roles he is to play, providing him with the necessary repertoire of habits, beliefs, and values, the appropriate patterns of emotional response and the modes of perception, the requisite skills and knowledge. On the other hand, by communicating the contents of culture from one generation to the other, it provides for its persistence and continuity. —Chinoy, 1961: 75 The parent or guardian also passes on their views on language, customs, and religion in a comfortable informal way.
The family acts as an agent of social control by teaching its members right from wrong and punishing it’s members for wrongdoing. One extremely interesting point of note about socialization is the prominence that is sited on mothers and the role that mothers play in the socialization process. We are told that it is mothers who are primarily involved in the earlier unconscious stage of socialization. However has this intimate relationship changed over the years? Undoubtedly the task of primary socialization has undergone immense change in the last thirty years.
The rise of the “Celtic tiger” has meant the role of primary socialization has become harder to enforce. The increase in the numbers of women returning to the work force has influenced the way that socialization had previously been structured in the home. More and more children are being cared for by child minders or in creches. Thus this means that the role of primary socialization has become an area which involves a much wider circle of people. From the beginning of the past decade, the majority of children in this state where being cared for by their mother in the home.
Today life and families are not so straight-laced. Families are a complex unit that incorporates ideas that never occurred in past generations. The ideals of a family consisting of a father: breadwinner and head of household, and a mother who was involved in mainly household tasks and the rearing of the children, where soon forgotten. Instead these where to be replaced with the new concepts of blended families, one or lone parent families, foster families and adopted families. Another major change in the life of the family that would influence primary socialization is the average number of children in the family.
The decrease in the number of children in the average family home has changed the environment of the home dramatically. Parents now have fewer children than past generations. This in turn leads to parents having much more time to instill values, morals, religion and other customs in their children. The rise in children attending these playschools means that a child is exposed to secondary socialization at an earlier age. Secondary socialization is another example of how our socialization patterns have changed over time. Secondary socialization occurs in groups that are usually larger and more impersonal than primary groups.
Members usually see each other on an infrequent basis, and these groups are not considered to be permanent. Examples are trade union memberships, religious and ethnic groups, pressure groups, voluntary organizations and the schooling system. This form of socialization is commonly introduced when a child starts school. It is a child’s first experience of formal teaching and reinforces his or her past knowledge from primary socialization. This type of socialization has shown great distinction from previous eras. The multicultural and ethnic times we live in have changed the way this eneration socializes.
The school system has had a major role to play in this. According to Christine E. Sleeted, “during the 1960s, textbooks clearly featured experiences and viewpoints of white middle class and elite people, mainly men. Over the past twenty-five years textbooks have gone through phases of active revision”. (Christine E. Sleeter 1996: 91). The world in which this generation grows is wholly different to the more guarded and constrained world of the past. The integration of different cultures and ethnicities into Irish society has made a series of changes to the way we now socialize.
Children are integrated into a society that incorporates the views of different races, religions and customs. For this reason the education system has undergone immense change and as Christine E. Sleeted insists, “almost any textbook published over the last ten years appears t be well integrated. Many teachers work to make their curricula multicultural”. The implications of this multicultural curriculum are the increase in the level of understanding and acceptance in society as a whole. (Christine E. Sleeter 1996:91).
Similarly Antonia Darder claims that in liberal educational American schools they “strongly incorporate the central pedagogical themes of appropriation, subjectivity, and interionality, along with a strong humanistic emphasis on the uniqueness of the individual”. (Antonia Darder 1991:8). This vital socialization enables society to combat issues such as classism, racism and sexism. The change in the socialization process is incontrovertible. In both of the distinct areas of socialization; primary socialization and secondary socialization change has certainty occurred and is evident in the socialization patterns of the past decade.
The substantial transformation of the family has impacted on the aspect of primary socialization. While it is evident from research that the secondary socialization process is adjusting and amending its teaching methods to incorporate a new multicultural generation. The combination of the two reformed socialization processes has undoutedly changed the way this generation sees society. Due to the new teachings of acceptance and equality, life has changed for people in Ireland to a life that incorporates and supports a diverse society.