Agents of Socialization
One of the most important parts of Chapter 5, and the part the stuck out to me most in this unit, were the agents of socialization and the way that your family, education, and the media can influence and facilitate the socialization process. As I think back on my own childhood, these are the main influences that taught me the various norms and beliefs in society. For example, as a child I was raised in a Christian family and can remember going to church every Sunday. When I started school, I remember being surprised that not every child in my class did the same thing because it was something that I was so accustomed to and was so normal in my family. As Kohlberg said in his theory of moral development, young children lack a higher level of cognitive ability and it isn’t until their older that they can determine right and wrong for themselves (Openstax, pg. 97). This theory also reminded me of being raised in a Christian family, because as a child I had no choice but to go to church everyday and blindly accept what I was being told, but later in my teenage years I was actually able to think for myself and question whether or not these were my beliefs too or just what I had been raised learning about.
Another thing besides family that is heavily influential is the media. Dr. Bell pointed out in his Ted Talk “Bring On The Female Superheroes” that the media is run by a select few companies and they decide what we get to see and what will influence society. As a child, all I would see and be exposed to on TV or movies was straight couple after straight couple. Because of this, I assumed that everyone was supposed to be heterosexual, and that I was too. When I got older, I realized that this wasn’t the case and that I wasn’t straight either, but as a child and even in today’s society it’s definitely seen as a “norm” to be heterosexual.
It’s hard for me to pick just one of the three theoretical perspectives in Sociology, because I think all of them are valid when it comes to socialization. I think if we compare the three agents of socialization, we can see each theoretical perspective used in various ways. Symbolic interactionists would argue that people are socialized as a result of interacting with other people, and the agent of socialization that applies to this is family. Functionalists would say that people are socialized because its required for a society to exist, which makes me think of our institution of education. Conflict theorists believe that people are socialized in a way that benefits the elite of society and the elite control socialization, which makes me think of the media and how a handful of big corporations control the media that we consume every day.
Though I believe every theory is valid and equally important, I feel like I identify most with what symbolic interactionists believe. Family is very influential in the early stages of life and I believe that a large part of our socialization really comes from that. In the story we read about Genie, her father hardly interacted with her as a child, but she started to become socialized with her psychologist and other people at the hospital interacted with her, which is another instance that shows how interaction with people is what socializes us.