Socialization and Functionalism
April 28, 2014
Socialization is a very important part of everyone’s life, whether a person knows it or not.
It determines how we become who we are, how we fit into society, and how we act. It sets standards and appropriate behaviors within our society. Socialization is a constant process where an individual receives and internalizes an identity and learns behaviors, norms, and values to become a functioning member of society. Socialization teaches an individual how to act according to the roles and expectations of their culture. This process of socialization can come from various sources, including social institutions. These institutions include, but are not limited to, education, religion, family, peer groups, and government. Socialization is very important because it helps to shape the individual, creating a selfimage as well as preparing the individual to perform a specific set of social roles in any setting throughout life.
Those who are not properly socialized, or not socialized at all, may be considered deviant. The unsocialized individual does not have any knowledge of what is expected of himself or herself in each scenario that they encounter in life. He or she will not know the norms and values in their society. This could lead to trouble finding work, friends, or acceptance in any setting. Unsocialized people tend to violate the norms of the society in which they are in, and therefore receive negative sanctions, punishments that discourage people from violating norms, from others in the society. Failed or improper socialization is met with society attempting to resocialize individuals. Resocialization is the process by which a person learns and internalizes new norms, values, and expectations of the culture in which they are living. Prisons and mental hospitals are examples of places whose sole purpose is to resocialize individuals.
Peer groups are one social institution which have a huge influence on an individual’s socialization. The peer groups we associate ourselves with, as well as outside peer groups,
influence how we act in society. Peer groups often have a ranking system, usually based off popularity. In many cases, the groups that are considered highstatus have more influence on other peer groups than those who have lowstatus. The ranking systems tend to even be prevalent within the individual peer group. Often, there is one person who is “in charge” of the group and tends to have a strong influence on socialization. Because of these strong influences, it is often said that those high ranking individuals are the ones who set up the social norms within the society. Within a society, especially in teen years, peer groups work to establish what is “cool”, what is accepted, and what the norms are (Shi & Xie, 2012).
Not all individuals, however, are socialized the same amount by peer groups. How much of a role peer groups play in one’s socialization is often related to how resistant that individual is to peer influence (Shi et al., 2012). If an individual is easily influenced by someone, then peer groups are likely to be a major role in that individual’s socialization. Furthermore, studies show that individuals and groups of lowstatus are more likely to be influenced by highstatus individuals and groups rather than vice versa (Shi et al., 2012).
The family is another social institution that is also working to socialize us through teaching us the norms and typical behaviors as well as helping us to create our own special self image. In the article titled “Racial Socialization in Transracial Adoptive Families,” a study was conducted where white adoptive parents prepared their adopted biracial child for possible discrimination in the world outside of the safety of the home. It was discovered that this racial