The process of socialization starts at birth. Socialization is initiated when agents of socialization, like doctors, nurses, and your parents, quickly divide the baby into the two broad categories of human being, “male” and “female.” The groups are immediately distinguished from each other. One group, the group with the vagina, is given a pink blanket while the other group, the group with the penis, is given a blue blanket. Following the initial segregation (which continues on throughout the lifespan of the individual), the “boy” and the “girl” group are treated differently. Boys are trained to be “breadwinners,” while girls are primed for their reproductive roles. As documented over and over and again by sociologists, each group has a markedly different life path and although in recent decades there has been a “loosening” of the socialized gender roles (nowadays we see individuals stepping outside of their socialized roles, stay at home dad’s, mom’s in the workforce, etc.), nevertheless the majority of women are still primarily responsible for raising children while the men spend their pre-retirement life time in productive labor. It’s interesting however that even when women go out into the workforce, they are often also expected to be the primary caregiver for the children as well working a “double day” in order to meet their obligations as mother over and above any financial obligations they may have.
The socialization process continues on in the home where parents become responsible for training the children in the ways of their gender and social class. Parents are, of course, a powerful force for socialization since not only do they generally talk to, treat, and even cuddle their children differently based on their gender, but they also begin the process of labor force socialization and, subsequently, reinforce the efforts of the school system as well. For example, working class children are taught the value of punctuality and industriousness as well as the routines of the labor force. Middle class individuals are taught the value of long hours and competitive excellence. Upper class individuals are taught the value of authority and free thinking along with the continual ideological reinforcement of the messages of their genetic, moral, or spiritual superiority. This class based socialization begins at approximately the age of five where children are moved out of the home into “schools” where teachers then begin the twelve step process of “educating” (read transferring and enforcing) the social order. The type of socialization you receive depends in large measure on your Social Class. Jean Anyon’s study in the Journal of Education (see below for link) is instructive. Of course teachers do not go it alone. After a certain age, the children themselves begin to enforce the social order. For example, round about the age of five or six, for example, children internalize and begin enforcing gender expectations by tittering, laughing, and sanctioning those individuals who step out of the narrow and prescriptive boxes of gender.
The whole process itself goes on for twelve or so years at which point the successful socialization of the individual is marked by a ritualized graduation ceremony where the newly minted “members of society” are passed out into the world where they will take on their productive (as in the case of men) or reproductive/double role (as in the case of women). Interestingly, by the time graduation occurs nothing is hidden. The school system, and even the students themselves, are self conscious about, and take pride in, the fact that they are graduating into the work force of society. At that point the values of the system are internalized and accepted to the point where the purpose of socialization no longer needs to be obscured.
The socialization process doesn’t stop at graduation. When you graduate school, the socialization process is taken over by the media and other “organizations of socialization” like the Freemason or the Shriners or the local chapter of the Better Business Bureau or the Trade Union or whatever. All these organizations are particularly powerful agents of socialization which work very hard to impose and reinforce specific world views and specific patterns of behaviour and thought on the adult population. The media is a great example. As communications specialists (i.e., sociologists who study mass media) would tell us, the media is a powerful agent of socialization. Often when we talk about media influence we use the example of television games and violence, but for sociologists it goes much deeper than this. As much as, perhaps more than, parents and schools, the media are implicated in the construction of worldviews. The behaviour of US media around the last Iraq war is fascinating in this regard.
- Sosteric.“What Is Socialization.” The Socjourn (blog), 2019. https://www.academia.edu/27983004/What_is_Socialization.