Methods of Socialization

 

Having read your text’s discussion of the 6 different methods of socialization, I wanted to talk through them each a bit more just to make some clarifications.  Below are my interpretations of the different methods, and then, examples of times that I was socialized in each of the different ways.  This will help you to interpret and understand the readings and to organize your thoughts if you choose to turn in Writing Assignment 1.

 

THE AFFECTIVE METHOD OF SOCIALIZATION

I think that this is the most complex and abstract of the 6 methods and the text really doesn’t explain it at all.  So I will give it a shot!

 

The affective method of socialization really requires two steps.  First, a child must have a secure attachment relationship with an adult (mother, father, caregiver, grandma, etc.).  When the child has established this secure attachment relationship, there is then an emotional give and take, an openness that exists between the two individuals.  This emotional relationship can look very different between different people.  But, the child allows himself or herself to be “touched” emotionally by the adult or to be open to the values, ideas, interests, and styles of the adult.  The affective method of socialization occurs when a child is securely attached to an adult, and because of that attachment, is able to adapt some aspect of that adult’s beliefs, values, or perspective.  The child learns, or is socialized, through the strength of the trust, love, and security of the relationship, making the child more willing to adapt the ideals or beliefs of that adult than some other.

 

In my life, my father and I were very close.  He was involved with my sister and I at home and in our schooling.  He was a very affectionate and caring father who shared equally in the parenting with my mother.  He also had a tendency not to be able to sit still for very long.  He was always busy with some project or getting something done. And when nothing needing doing, he would always find an excuse to go out and do something.  I remember very vividly as a child, through the grade school years, of going on “explores” with my dad.  I used to think that he always knew exactly where we were going and what we were doing but now I know that he was making it up as we went along, a lot of the time!  We would go explore a new building or construction site, or go to his office when it was closed and explore the supply room where they kept all the cool office supplies!  Sometimes, we would play a game where I would close my eyes in the car and he would drive around trying to confuse me and then I would open my eyes and see if I could direct us back home.  This was such fun time that we had together and because of my closeness to him and the importance of that time, I see in myself, as an adult, some of the same tendencies.  I have difficulty sitting still for very long at home…I’m always finding little projects, or cleaning up. And I love to take my son to visit new places we’ve never seen or go explore the house that’s being built down the street.  I have adapted the attitude and style that I learned from my father because of the close relationship we had when I was a child.

 

THE OPERANT METHOD OF SOCIALIZATION

There are many different aspects of the operant method of socialization and I won’t detail each of them here.  But basically, the operant method means that the child learns because of the response he or she receives to his or her behavior.  So, first the child does something, and then, something happens in response that either encourages the child to continue that kind of behavior, modify that kind of behavior, or cease that kind of behavior.  The important aspect to keep in mind here is that the behavior must happen first, and then the child learns from the response received.  Your book outlines and describes many kinds of responses the child might get, such as positive reinforcement, negative reinforcement, punishment, feedback, etc.

 

When I was in 10th grade I had to write a research paper for Mr. Aker, my English teacher.  We had to learn each step of the research process and receive feedback as we went along.  I wrote my paper on Steinbeck’s, The Grapes of Wrath.  We went to the library and read other reviews of the literature and turned in our note cards for feedback.  We created an outline of the paper and turned it in for feedback.  We wrote several drafts of the paper, turning them all in for feedback for our teacher.  At each step of the way, Mr. Aker kept telling me, in his written feedback, that he believed that the Joad’s (the character’s in the story) were “victims of society.”  I didn’t really know what that meant or whether I agreed with it, but after I had received that feedback several times, it became clear to me that if I wanted an A on my paper, I should probably support the idea that the Joad’s were victims of society.  So I did…. and I did pretty well on the paper.  So, in this example, Mr. Aker used intentional operant socialization to help me learn to write a research paper AND to teach me his theoretical interpretation of this sociological issue in literature.  HOWEVER, he also used unintentional operant socialization to teach me that it is important to write to the correct audience.  If I were writing to a different teacher, I would have to follow that teacher’s outline or ideas, if I were writing to children I would have to write so they could understand, and if I were writing for Mr. Aker, the Joad’s would have to be “victims of society.”

 

THE COGNITIVE METHOD OF SOCIALIZATION

The cognitive method of socialization depends on children learning through specific kinds of thinking processes.  Some of these processes are following directions or instructions, setting standards, and reasoning.  These specific cognitive processes place high demands on the child’s thinking skills.  They are effective means of socialization if the child is developmentally ready for the demand.  For instance, have you ever asked a 3-year-old to follow a 4-step direction?  “Go to your room, take off your shoes, take off your shorts, and then come to the bathroom for your bath.”  It seems so simple!  Yet the child follows the first step by going to his room…and then you never see him again because he has not retained the rest of the directions and is now playing happily with his Lego’s! 

Setting standards is also very effective for children who are developmentally capable of the cognitive skills necessary to understand standards.  You see, in order to “live up to” a standard of behavior, the child must be able to hold in her mind what the standard was AND what her behavior was AND THEN compare them.  For instance, if you put your 4-year-old on the little league team and say, “Go on slugger!  Hit a home run!”…you have set a standard for what you are expecting.  Then your child hits a foul ball and strikes out and comes back to the bench completely happy!!!  The child is not disappointed in her behavior because she was not able to hold your standard in her head while simultaneously assessing her own behavior.  However, your 6-year-old who goes to bat and strikes out will be very disappointed…not only about striking out, but about not living up to the standard you have set.

Reasoning is an important aspect of the cognitive method of socialization.  We are able to learn something in one experience and then logically apply that learning to another experience.  There are three ways in which we can reason.  They are Inductive reasoning (reasoning from a specific instance to a general principle), Deductive reasoning (reasoning from a general principle to a specific instance, and Transductive reasoning (reasoning from a specific instance to another specific instance).  I’ll use them each in an example.

                Let’s say you’re a 4-year-old child and you’re really angry at Sara because she took your book away from you.  So you think to yourself, “I’m so mad at Sarah!  I’m going to hit her!”  But then you think, “But should I really hit her…hmmm…. what do I know about hitting?” 

                If you think to yourself, “I’d better not hit her because yesterday the teacher said I couldn’t hit Aaron, so I bet I can’t hit Sarah either,” then you are using Transductive reasoning.  You have reasoned from one specific instance (you can’t hit Aaron) across to another specific instance (you can’t hit Sarah).

                If you think to yourself, “Yesterday we made a rule in the classroom that we never hit anyone, so I guess I can’t hit Sarah,” then you are using Deductive reasoning.  You have reasoned from a general principle (you can’t hit anyone) down to a specific instance (you can’t hit Sarah).

                If you think to yourself, “Yesterday the teacher said I couldn’t hit Aaron and the day before she said I couldn’t hit Thomas, so I’d better not hit ANYBODY anymore,” then you are using Inductive reasoning.  You have reasoned from a specific instance (you can’t hit Aaron) up to a general principle (you can’t hit anybody).

 

THE OBSERVATIONAL METHOD OF SOCIALIZATION

This method of socialization is about as straightforward as it gets.  Sometimes children learn things by watching other people!  They observe what others do, and then imitate the behaviors.  They choose individuals as role models and try to act like those models.  Thus, we don’t always have to live every experience ourselves…we can learn through the experiences of others and pick up on the lessons they have learned.

 

I began learning to ski when I was a senior in high school.  I went to Colorado, and on my first day I took some lessons at the lodge.  Then I went out with my friends and gave it a try.  I was not great but I managed.  However, I found that I got tired very fast and I ended up spending a good part of the day in the lodge, drinking hot chocolate and looking out the window at the other skiers.  This ended up being very helpful to me because, by watching those other skiers…the ones who actually knew what to do, I learned A LOT!!!  I learned how I was supposed to bend my knees and keep the tips of my skis together.  I learned that I was actually supposed to use the ski poles rather than just hanging on to them for dear life.  I saw several different methods of coming down the slope…swerving side to side or just going straight down the middle.  I learned as much, if not more, about skiing by watching other skiers as I did when I was out there trying it my self!

 

THE SOCIOCULTURAL METHOD OF SOCIALIZATION

The sociocultural method of socialization refers to all of those traditions, customs, symbols, habits and routines that we have and that we pass on to our children…. simply because that’s the way we’ve always done things.  Many of these traditions had very clear reasons when they started…. religious significance, good luck, etc. But frequently we continue doing them just because we are used to it.  Another aspect of the sociocultural method is peer pressure.  Again, this is when we do something largely because everyone else is doing it.  Just as with traditions, we don’t always have a logical reason for what we are doing, but we feel a great deal of pressure to do it anyway.

 

I noticed how strongly we are all impacted by the sociocultural method of socialization during the period of my life when all my friends were getting married.  There are so many “rules” and expectations and pressures surrounding a wedding.  Where to have it, who to invite, how to write the names on the envelopes, how to choose a ring, what kind of dress to wear, how many bridesmaids, throwing a bachelor party, bridal showers, what kind of cake to serve, sit down dinner or buffet, etc. etc. etc.  I saw some friends become a complete basket case because there was so much pressure to do things just the “right way” that they couldn’t ever understand why they were doing it at all!  For instance, how many of you actually know why we throw rice at the couple after a wedding?  There was once a reason…now few of us know it, but most of us do it!  Perfect example of the sociocultural method of socialization!

 

THE APPRENTICESHIP METHOD OF SOCIALIZATION

Many work experiences used to be arranged as a formal apprenticeship.  You would enter the trade as an apprentice, work your way up to a journeyman, and finally after many years of guided effort, you would be come a master woodworker, or blacksmith, or whatever.  But we have informal apprenticeship experiences in our socialization all the time.  The apprenticeship method of socialization requires the child to go through three stages.  First, the learning situation is structured by an expert.  Then, the child works in collaboration with the expert.  Finally, the responsibility is transferred to the child.

 

A great example of this in my life was learning to ride a bike.  First, my father put training wheels on my bike and showed me how to pedal and steer and control the bike.  Then, he took the training wheels off and held the back of the bike.  During this phase I was actually controlling the bike for a little while, when he let go, but he was always right there to grab it if I slowed down too much and lost my balance.  Finally, I learned to push off from the curb and go all by myself down the street and the responsibility for staying up was transferred completely to me.

 

REMEMBER:  All children learn through all six of these methods of socialization throughout their life.  When you are a teacher or parent, remember these different processes.  If you see a child who is struggling with learning a concept, a skill, a value, or an idea, try to create a learning experience that takes advantage of another method of socialization.  Understanding these six methods should help you to better meet the needs of children.