Essay on Internalisation of Social Norms

By trial and error and by direct or indirect observation and experience the child slowly learns the approved way of behaving. He learns to distinguish between the right and wrong. Parents and other members also help the child to learn the norms of the groups.

They rein­force the child’s learning by rewards and punishments or by means of approval and disapproval. The repeated experiences of the child help him to internalise the norms in his personality.

Internalised Norms and the Daily Life:

In our daily life we interact with many people and do many tasks. We do not think about what we are going to do when we get up from our bed, go out from the home, enter a shop, get into a bus, classroom, cafeteria, and meet a friend, a clerk, a teacher or a traffic police and so on.

Because the norms, which we have internalised, help us to decide what to do and what not to do under different social situations.

The development of self is closely associated with the internalisation of norms. As and when the child grows he learns to enact various roles, the role of a child, a son, a brother, a playmate of the neighbouring child, a student in a school and so on.

Every role is woven around a set of norms. Whether directly or indirectly, consciously or unconsciously these norms are learnt by the child. This process of learning the norms proceeds to such an extent that they become internalised in his personality.

Internalisation of Norms Helps Self-Control:

Internalisation of norms is an important aspect of socialisation. It lessens the problems of social control for society. Ultimately, social control is achieved when sclfcontrol is mastered.

The individual is able to exercise discipline by himself over his own actions and behaviour. More than the enforced means of social control such as customs and traditions or laws and legislations, the internalised norms are more effective.

They have an enduring effect on the personality of the child. Internalised norms provide the best explanation to certain widely accepted and obeyed social taboos such as the ‘incest’. No son wants to have sex relations with the mother and no father with the daughter or the brother with the sister.

The incest taboos that prohibit the sex relations between the so called blood relatives, have become so much internalised that no one ever thinks of having sex relations with his closest relatives.

Internalisation of Norms Due to Indoctrination:

It is wrong to assume that hope of reward and fear of punishment are the only reasons as to why people conform to the norms. People conform to the norms because they are indoctrinated to do so.

Indoctrination refers to the process of injecting into the personality of the child the group norms. Sometimes even prejudices, fears, superstitious beliefs, strong likes and dislikes are also injected into the mind of the child.

This may have an adverse effect on the personality development. Indoctrination provides an answer for class or caste hatreds, racial prejudices, religious intolerance, ideological commitments, etc.

Further, people con­form to the norms because they become habituated to them. They also realise that norms are useful and serve some purpose. Conformity to the norms is a means of group identification.

Internalisation of Norms and the Development of Individuality:

It is wrong to suppose that internalisation of norms provides no scope for the development of individuality. The individual is not only socialised, he also influences others and socialises them. He participates in the society both by being influenced by others and by influencing them.

The individual has a self which is unique to itself. Hence the same socialisation process may have different effects on different individuals de­pending upon their potentialities and peculiarities. Socialisation provides enough opportunities to display individual peculiarities.