Essay on Adult Socialisation

The socialisation of adults is relatively easier than the socialisation of children for three rea­sons: (i) the adult am normally motivated to work towards a goal which he has already picked up. (ii) The new role that he is trying to internalise has many similarities to the roles which he has already internalized-(iii) finally; the socialising agent can communicate with him easily through speech.

Still the socialisation of adults can be a prolonged and a tough process. This is particularly so when the skills to be learnt are complex and the responsibilities of the role are heavy.

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It becomes still more difficult when the new role requires the internalisation of norms and attitudes that are almost the opposite of those which are established in his personality. For example, a rural youth who comes from a male-dominated family may have to face difficulties when required to work under a female boss in a city office.

As a part of the preparation for many adult roles the adolescents are not only given training in necessary skills but are also instilled with proper motivation and values. Thus, most of the adoles­cents want to become parents, workers, citizens, etc. They try to play these roles well when the time comes for that. Learning of these roles becomes easier if it is preceded by anticipatory socialisation.

Sometimes, adult socialisation is affected by early socialisation. Freud has thrown light on the fact that the childhood events have long range effects upon personality. For example, children who are allowed to eat freely whatever they want may find it difficult in later life to have control over their tongue. Similarly, the highly talkative children will face difficulties in exercising constraint over their talk in adult life.

Even in the case of adults educational institutions, the mass media and peer groups continue to serve as agencies of socialisation. They are often supplemented by the complex organisations. These agencies help the new comer to get attuned to the established routines and also to develop values and loyalties relevant to the new roles. Adult Socialisation – Child Socialisation: Differences

According to Orville G. Brim Jr, adult socialisation differs from child socialisation in five main ways.

1. “Adult socialisation is more likely to change overt behaviour whereas child socialisation moulds basic values”. Example: Adults can take on the roles of parents but their basic views on love, sharing, understanding, cooperation, etc., were formed in childhood. Similarly, values also change in adulthood when, for example, religious conversions take place; still, the basic temperaiftental traits developed in child socialisation may continue.

2. “Adult socialisation stresses the informal nature of social positions, whereas child socialisation highlights the formal aspects “. Example: Young children tend to see teachers as authority figures, while adults would look beyond their social positions and see them as individuals.

3. “Adults realise that there is difference between ideal behaviour and what can reasonably be expected. Children take ideal expectations seriously”. Example: If the children are told, even if it is through stories, about the good qualities of a teacher who loves the students very much, they start expecting the same thing from their teachers. As they mature, children learn the distinction between the ideal things and what is really expected of them and of others.

4. “Adult socialisation often involves juggling the conflicting demands of various roles. Childhood socialisation, however, stresses conformity to rules and to one source of authority”.

Ex­ample: Many employed women face the conflict between their commitment to their family as wives and mothers, and their commitment to their office or place of work as employees. But children are comparatively free from such conflicts. At home, they are trained to accept and submit to the author­ity of the parents and elders, and in schools of the teachers.

5. “Adult socialisation is designed to help the person gain specific skills whereas childhood socialisation is more generalised”. Example: Adults are socialised to do specific jobs. Children are socialised to do things like sex-appropriate behaviour and adherence to the values of their class, caste, ethnic or religious group.

Personalities do not come ready-made. They are moulded or shaped through the process of socialisation. The process of socialisation is operative not only in childhood but throughout life.

It is a process which begins at birth and continues till the death of the individual. It is an endless process. From the societal point of view, the child is valued more for ‘ what he will be’ than for ‘ what he is’. Socialisation helps the child to become a useful member of the society. It gives him social maturity.

Hence it is quite natural that the child’s socialisation has not been left to mere accident. Rather, it has been given an institutional framework and controlled through institutional channels. The following are the agencies that have been established by culture which socialise the new born child.

(i) Family and Parents:

The process of socialisation begins for every one of us in the family. Here, the parental and particularly the maternal influence on the child is very great. The intimate relationship between the mother and the child has a great impact on the shaping of child’s abilities and capacities.

The parents are the first persons to introduce to the child the culture of his group. The child receives additional communications from his older siblings, i.e. brothers and sisters, who have gone through the same process – with certain differences due to birth order and to the number and sex of the siblings.

(ii) Peers or Agemates:

‘Peer groups’ means those groups made up of the contemporaries of the child, his associates in school, in playground and in street. He learns from these children, facts and facets of culture that they have previously learnt at different times from their parents. The mem­bers of peer groups have other sources of information about the culture – their peers in still other peer groups – and thus the acquisition of culture goes on.

As time passes by, of course, the peer group surpasses the parental and family groups in impor­tance. It is true that the ‘peer culture’ becomes more important and effective than the ‘parental culture’ in the adolescent years of the child.

The advice of one’s agemates whether overtly or co­vertly communicated, sets the standards in almost every aspect of conduct. However, we should not assume that the socialisation process is completed by the time the teen ages are reached. On the other hand, this is the time when pressures for conformity are perhaps, at their heights.

(iii) Teachers:

The teachers also play their role in socialisation when the child enters the school. It is in the school that the culture is formally transmitted and acquired, in which the lore and the learning, the science and art, of one generation is passed on to the next.

It is not only the formal knowledge of the culture that is transmitted there but most of its premises as well – its ethical senti­ments, its political attitudes, its customs and taboos. The children in the earlier school may uncritically absorb the culture to which their teachers give expression.

They may in the high school respond with increasing scepticism. But wherever they are, and at whatever age, the communications they receive from their teachers help to socialise them and to make them finally mature members of their socie­ties.

(iv) Literature and Mass Media of Communication:

There is another source of socialisation. This is, of course, found only in literate societies and that is the literature. The civilisation that we share is constructed of words or literature. “Words rush at us in torrent and cascade; they leap into our vision, as in billboard and newspaper, magazine and textbook; and assault our ears, as in radio and television”. The media of mass communication give us their messages.

These messages too contain in capsule form, the premises of our culture, its attitudes and ideologies. The words are always written by someone and these people too – authors and editors and advertisers – join the teachers, the peers and the parents in the socialisation process. In individual cases, of course, some of these influences are more important than others.

The responses can also differ. “Some of us respect tradition; others fear the opinions of their peers, and still others prefer to listen to the ‘thousand tongues’ of conscience”. But all three modes of socialisation result in conformity of a kind and all three thus contribute to the transmission of a culture by some and its acquisition by others.

Who Socialises the Child? Is a question that can be answered in another way also? Kingsley Davis says that there are two categories of persons from whom the child acquires the sentiments, Beliefs, and knowledge of his culture.

The first includes those who have authority over him. Persons having authority over the child are generally older than he and command obedience. They are the parents. Socialisation must naturally proceed from those who have more of the culture to those who have less, from the mature to the immature. Since the infant has no juniors and no capacity for associating with equals, the parents play an important role at this stage.

The second category includes those persons who have equality with him. Persons sharing equality with the child, whether kin or not, are apt to be of the same age. The child maintains equalitarian relations with those who are of the same age, sex and rank.

It is through the agemates or peers that one learns some of the more informed aspects of culture such as folkways, manners, style, shades of meanings, fads, fashions, crazes, habits, secret modes of gratification and forbidden knowledge. Some such things are often socially necessary and yet socially tabooed. Example: knowledge of sex relations.


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