1. What is socialisation and how is it achieved? With reference to sociological research how significant do you think socialisation is to society?
Throughout the world there are numerous societies, each with their own individual cultures and ways of living. What maybe considered acceptable behaviour in one society may be disapproved of and frowned upon by another. Individuals are born into these societies and learn the values and norms through a process called socialisation. Socialisation is a continuous process that takes place throughout our entire lives; we are constantly learning how to adapt to new situations and being accepted in society. It is passed on from generation to generation and also brings them together. For example, the arrival of a new baby would bring together the grandparents and the parents.
Socialisation is known as the process by which individuals learn to become a member of the society to which they were born. It is an initiation into a social world and its many meanings (Berger: Lecture notes; 2001).
There are two main stages of socialisation; these are primary socialisation and secondary socialisation. Primary is thought to be the most influential as it takes place during early childhood and forms deep roots. It’s where the child learns many of the basic behaviour patterns of its society; it does this through the parents and other close relatives. The child begins to discover the appropriate ways to behave, and the norms and values of society that are necessary for an individual to fit in. Children mainly learn through observation and imitation, they watch their parents and then try to copy this behaviour. Therefore, the child is likely to have many similar social skills to that of their parents.
Although it may seem that children are passive and simply absorb whatever information they are given. They are in fact active thinkers, they take the information that they are given, look at it and then decide whether or not to accept it.
The ways in which parents respond to the child’s behaviour also has a large influence over the effectiveness of socialisation. For example, reward and punishment. If a child is praised when they act in an appropriate way, they are more likely to repeat that behaviour again. If they act badly, and they are punished, they will associate that behaviour with bad things. As a result of this conditioning they would be less likely to act negatively. It is important not to pay more attention to bad behaviour than good, because when only bad behaviour is acknowledged, the child may play up on purpose to gain more attention. This could lead to future behavioural problems.
During this period the individual also identifies cultural norms and values. For example, if a person were to walk naked through the town centre they would be given looks of disapproval, as a result they would more than likely dress in clothes that were thought of as ‘normal’ and accepted by others within that society. Individuals strive to be accepted by others, as it makes them feel a values member of society.
As primary socialisation is all the early processes that influence an individual, secondary socialisation are all the later processes by which individuals are inducted into a specific social world, such as schools. In every society primary socialisation takes place, secondary varies on the society and the level of industrialisation (Lecture Notes; 2001).
Socialisation and social control very closely linked, each society has ways of controlling members within it, they make sure that everybody conform to the accepted ways of behaving by enforcing it on to individuals from a young age (Sociology in focus; 1993). Human beings are born helpless; they have no instincts of their own and are dependent on adults to look after them and show them how to behave. If they do not have this human contact then they cannot develop as a ‘normal’ human.
This is because they have not had the influences of society that help create their future behaviour patterns. In some cases of children having little or no human contact, the individual turns to other animals, they begin to imitate the behaviour of the animal and adapt to their way of life. An example of this was the case of a little boy called Horst, whose alcoholic parents were always out drinking. He was left on his own most of the time with their pet dog.
The dog had just had its puppy’s taken from it and was pining for them and as a result, she turned her affections to the baby. This love from the dog was the only that Horst had experienced, they would cuddle up and sleep together and the dog would clean the boy. Horst was discovered at the age, by which time he had adopted the behaviour of a dogs, he didn’t use a toilet instead cocked his leg, nor did he use his hands to feed himself, he could not speak he just made noises like a dog. When Horst was put into a clinic he was said to be reborn, starting again and learning to become ‘human’ (Sociology in focus; 1993). As this example shows unless individuals are socialised they become unrecognisable from what is known as being ‘human’.
However, examples like this where the child’s behaviour is said to be a result of being reared by an animal are yet to be proven. Some sociologists argue that the child could have had behavioural problems before and were abandoned as a result.
I feel that socialisation plays a vital in the construction of the human race; it gives us a guide to how we should and shouldn’t act and the way in which we should treat others. It also makes us part of a community who share similar beliefs and values. Without these common grounds and shared interests, communication and control would also diminish. People would no longer be able to relate to one another and we would become more like wild animal.
Although it is argued that there is a certain amount of free will in all human beings and that socialisation is only a small part of what makes us how we are. I feel that without socialisation the human race would no longer exist as it makes people aware of their culture, and without culture there would be no society.
2. What significant changes has the family undergone since industrialisation in Britain? What does sociological research suggests are the major causes for this are?
The family is a group of persons linked directly by kin connections. The adult members of which assume responsibility for caring for children (Introductory to sociology; 1993).
Throughout the years the family has experienced many dramatic changes, before industrialisation it used to be very different to how it is now, in fact many areas are almost unrecognisable.
In pre-industrial societies most families worked on farms, they were all expected to take part and work together; even the children were regarded as being of great economical help. They were set to work from a very young age and did not have what industrialised society would call a ‘childhood’. Aries a sociologist said there wasn’t a notion of childhood in the lifecycle; they were seen as little adults, who had no moral, social or sexual needs. In industrial societies there is great emphasis placed on the importance of ‘childhood’, for example activities such as play have been discovered to help a child develop and learn new skills.
The families not only worked on the farm but it was their home as well. Now in industrial Britain, families no longer associate home and work as one, people tend to travel into towns to work and consider time at home as leisure time to spend with the family. The home has become a place of emotional fulfilment and sexual gratification, separated from the stresses of work.
The family stopped being the unit of production in the eighteen hundreds when families moved from the farm to the town, where the jobs were. At first they thought the family would still work together but then realised due to legislations, children under the age of six were not allowed to work. This meant that the women had to stay at home to look after the children, while the men went out to work. Some feminists feel that this is what has caused the inequalities between men and women in the labour division.
In agricultural societies, families were a lot larger, many were extended, when industrialisation began households became smaller, and a lot more privatised. Instead of everyone sharing a bedroom individuals would get their own room, this is a recent concept and would have been unimaginable in pre- industrial times. The chances of anyone being able to get a moment on their own would be slim to none.
The family that is often seen as typical of modern society is known as the nuclear family, rather than the pre industrial extended family, the nuclear family is considered by most sociologists to be the smallest form of family structure, it is also considered to be the most appropriate to meet modern industry demands, as people need to be flexible and need to have the mobility to move where there skills are required. The extended family would have been too big to have the mobility needed in the industrial society.
Another significant change that the family has undergone is the attitude people have towards marriage. Before industrialisation people would marry for economic and social reasons. In western industrialised society people marry out of the idea of romantic love and affection. Partly due to this notion the family has become increasingly detached from the wider society and far more privatised. It is also said
to be a contributing factor in the increasing divorce rates, as people are continuously searching for a soul mate and if they realise they have made a mistake then they will begin looking for another partner. It could appear that marriage values are becoming feeble and less meaningful than they once were.
Many of the changes that have occurred during industrialisation have been a result of families trying to adopt their lifestyles to the rapidly changing world.
Technology has made considerable advances and has replaced many of the jobs that were once done by humans with machinery. However it has also created many new jobs, meaning that families have had to make sacrifices, for example moving and down sizing the family. Technology has also made it possible for work to be done a lot quicker, this means individuals in industrial societies are able to work less hours. As a result families can spend more quality time together. Not only are families changing as a result of increasing economic pressures and demands, but individuals ideologies and perspectives are changing, people want to fulfil personal and emotional needs as well as financial.
Change is an inevitable part of life, everything is developing and advancing and the only way to survive is to adapt, if individuals do not change accordingly they will find themselves left behind. A recent example of this is the Internet, members of the older generations are finding it difficult to get to grips with and it has left a technological backwash. The causes of these changes are the need and want for sociological developments and improvements.