Definition of Agent of Socialization
Types of Agent of Socialization
Pronunciation of Agent of Socialization
Syllabification: a·gent of so·cial·i·za·tion
- American English – /AY-juhnt uhv soh-shuh-luh-zAY-shuhn/
- British English – /AY-juhnt UHv soh-shuh-lie-zAY-shuhn/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English: /ˈeɪʤənt ʌv ˌsoʊʃəlɪˈzeɪʃən/
- British English: /ˈeɪʤənt ɒv ˌsəʊʃəlaɪˈzeɪʃən/
- Plural: agents of socialization
- Agents of socialization teach us what we need to know to participate in our community and society, preparing us to live up to the expectations of the generalized other.
- Agents of socialization can be formal (e.g., religion) or informal (e.g., media, peer groups) and occur in both social and physical environments.
- Agents of socialization can complement other social forces of influence. However, socialization agents can provide conflicting or mixed messages. Typically this disconnect is between formal and informal agents. For example, religious or political institutions may be in conflict with peer groups or some media about abortion, gay marriage, premarital sex, etc.
- Family is the most significant agent of socialization as it is the”original group” and a source of primary socialization. The family is where members receive their earliest exposure to society’s expectations. Family begins the life-long process of learning language, norms, and values. Family also instills understanding of authority and hierarchies. However, this significance decreases with age due to secondary socialization from peer groups and education, and increasingly because of globalization and exposure to mass media.
- Educational institutions are another significant agent of socialization as what is taught goes beyond formal knowledge, provides anticipatory socialization, and includes a hidden curriculum.
- On a micro-level socialization agents are typically in groups and out-groups or significant others and primary groups, at a macro-level institutions and structures.
- Also called socialization agent (socialisation agent).
- “Formal agents of socialization are official or legal agents (e.g., families, schools, teachers, religious organizations) whose purpose it is to socialize the individual into the values, beliefs, and behaviors of the culture. For example, a primary goal of families is to teach children to speak and to learn proper behavior. In addition, school teachers educate by giving formal instruction, and religious organizations provide moral instruction” (Ballantine et al. 2018:298).
- “In recent decades the mass media has become a very influential agent of socialization. Media portrayals—news articles, television programs, videos, films, internet sites—present information about every aspect of daily life and the world around us. These images shape our perception of people, places and events, and thus influence our attitudes toward these objects. The images also shape our scripts, our images of the people and behaviors that are appropriate in various types of relationships. Media portrayals shape the child’s image of self as male or female, as well as their expectations about and treatment of others based on gender (and of course, race and age). Older children and adolescents learn schemas and scripts for various types of relationships from watching familial, romantic, and work relationships unfold on the movie or television screen and on YouTube” (Delamater et al. 2015:80).
- “Informal agents of socialization are unofficial influential agents that shape values, beliefs, and behaviors in which socialization is not the express purpose. Examples include peers, the media, books, advertising, and the Internet. They bring us continuous messages even though their primary purpose is not socialization but entertainment or selling products. Children watch countless advertisements on television, many with messages about what is good and fun to eat and how to be more attractive, more appealing, smarter, and a better person through the consumption of products. This bombardment is a particularly influential part of socialization for children and teenagers” (Ballantine et al. 2018:299).
- “Most people perhaps think of sports as something that is just for fun and relaxation—or perhaps to provide opportunities for college scholarships and athletic careers—but sports are also an agent of socialization. Through sports, men and women learn concepts of self that stay with them in their later lives” (Andersen and Taylor 2011:81).
- “Religion is another key agent of socialization. Not only is it a transmitter of core personal and societal values but organized religion also plays a significant role in the development of gender role ideology for many of its adherents. This, in turn, affects many aspects of female/male relationships as well as family organization and functioning. The sacred writings of many of the major religions project traditional gender roles, with men having a dominant status compared to women” (Schwartz and Scott 2012:72).
- “Second to the family, the school acts as a powerful agent of socialization. It is the first formal agency charged with the task of socializing children and represents the first link to the wider world. In school, children must learn not only basic skills needed in the society but also the hidden curriculum of how to cope successfully in a competitive environment. American schools have often been hotbeds of controversy (school prayer, standards, teacher performance, common core, etc.), probably because they are recognized as being such important socializing agents. Schools are also used as socialization agents for the labor market. In that function, they are expected to teach manners, respect for authority, and the development of basic social skills. At the same time, schools manage to stress certain cultural values (such as competition) and disseminate the idea that the society of which students are a part is superior to others. This is the hidden curriculum that schools impart above and beyond basic skills” (Perry and Perry 2016:92–93).
- “The family is by far the most significant agent of socialization. Although social change has increased family diversity and created more opportunities for children to be influenced by other social institutions, the family continues to play the pivotal role in primary socialization. The family is responsible for shaping a child’s personality, emerging identity, and self-esteem. Children gain their first values and attitudes from the family, including powerful messages about gender. Learned first in the family and then reinforced by other social institutions, gender is fundamental to the shaping of all social life. Gender messages dominate and are among the best predictors of a range of later attitudes and behaviors” (Lindsey 2016:78).
- “The government itself is an agent of socialization, especially if it delivers rising living standards. Many government activities are intended to explain or display the government to the public, always designed to build support and loyalty. Great spectacles, such as the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, have a strengthening effect, as do parades with flags and soldiers and proclamations of top leaders. The power of government to control political attitudes is limited, however, because messages and experiences reach individuals through conversations with primary groups of kin or peers who put their own spin on messages. Alienated groups may socialize their children to dislike the government and ignore its messages” (Roskin et al. 2016:125).
- anticipatory socialization
- gender socialization
- generalized other
- hidden curriculum
- primary group
- significant other
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ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2019. “agent of socialization.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved May 24, 2022 (https://sociologydictionary.org/agent-of-socialization/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
agent of socialization. (2019). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/agent-of-socialization/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2019. “agent of socialization.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed May 24, 2022. https://sociologydictionary.org/agent-of-socialization/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“agent of socialization.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2019. Web. 24 May. 2022. <https://sociologydictionary.org/agent-of-socialization/>.