3.2.3 Agents of Socialisation

Socialisation obviously occurs through the interaction with various agents during an individual's personal lifetime and these comprise of the family, the peer group, the school and the mass media among others.

The family: this is the primary and chief agent of socialisation for most people, especially in the first five years of their life. The family provides the child with his/her first social contact with the social world and it is through it that the correct patterns of behaviour are internalised and learnt. However, learning is done in an informal manner and the right (or wrong behaviour) is approved (or rejected) through rewards and punishment. Studies confirm that the family has a very significant role to play during socialisation since it is the only one that allows that adjustments are made when necessary since there are strong emotional ties and motivations that are fused during such informal learning.

The School: when a child reaches school age, he/she started to widen his/her socialising cycle via school setting here learning is more of formal type since there is an obvious transition from an environment of personal and intimate relationship to one which is more impersonal. At school, talents are evaluated on the basis of sets of standards and requirements. The school helps the child to adapt to social order through the hidden curriculum and functions in order to prepare the latter for a stable adult life. Moreover, the school is specialised to impart certain technical, intellectual skills and cultural heritage of society so that the individual is able to integrate society. In many cases, socialisation provided by the school sometimes erodes values learnt at home and which are contrary to the dominant culture.

The Peer group: this is the second important influence that a child encounters during his/her lifetime. Play patterns with his playmates is highly influential on the way he/she thinks and the way he/she will act later. Peer group are usually people who are of the same age and have similar status, and association is usually accidental. For instance, a child who enters the standard one and find him/herself in a class of children of the same age and he/she might become friends with only some of them. Yet, the whole class constitutes his/her peer group. However, as a child grows up, he/she starts to choose his/her peer group on a couple of criteria usually based on common interests, activities, similar income level and status. As we can easily note, the peer group is the only socialising agent that is not controlled by adults and they indeed affect the individual in such issues like appearance, lifestyles, fads and fashion, social activities and dating, drugs, sex and technology (Sebald, 1986).

The mass media: It is recognised by many sociologists that the mass media exerts a powerful socialising influence but the extent of its effects is difficult to measure. Mass media transmit information in an impersonal manner which is all the time conducted in a one-way flow since the audience are passive receivers, although the mass media is perceived as empowering us with wider information, knowledge about the wider world, it becomes clear that it also harms its audience and receivers. By concentrating and stressing on certain topics, the media can create, manage and control our impressions of what should be seen as real, important and normative. For instance, some research done have shown that there is a strong correlation between violent television shows and aggressive anti-social behaviour among children, since the latter like to copy their favourite heroes (Globe and Mail, May 20, 1993). Another contemporary threat is the internet. Although, it can be used as a pool/reservoir of knowledge, the internet constitutes a danger for children since they can be easily exposed to certain damaging material and fall prey to paedophilia and pornography on the web.

IDevice Icon Activity 3.1
Make a list of ideas/attitudes, norms, values you think you have learnt through the
(a) The family
(b) The school,
(c) peer group,
(d) mass media