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Agents of Socialization

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Agents of Socialization

Sociologists refer to any person or institution that participates in an on going capacity in people’s socialization process as an agent of socialization.  Anybody or anything that teaches people about beliefs, attitudes, values, norms, or behaviors is acting as an agent of socialization, but sociologist usually reserve the use of this term for those persons or institutions who provide such learning (1.) frequently, (2.)  for large numbers of people, or (3.) on an ongoing basis.


Four important agents of socialization:  Although there are many agents of socialization in our society at any given time, four are particularly important:  The family, one’s peers, religion the educational system, and the mass media.

Successful vs. Unsuccessful Socialization

    When socialization is successful it is said that internalization occurs, people are changed, they become something new, some new behavior, belief, attitude, or value surface. 

    When socialization is unsuccessful, the behavior, belief, or attitude remains unchanged.  The behavior repertoire, belief structure or attitude structure remains the same.

    Four things that cause unsuccessful socialization

1.  The agent of socialization may not be adept at teaching the behavior, belief, attitude or norm to the person in question.

2.  The socialization maybe unsuccessful because the person trying to be socialized may not be receptive.

3. Socialization may be unsuccessful because there is a poor fit between the person to be socialized and the behavior, norm, or attitude to be learned.

4.  Socialization may be unsuccessful because the individual receives conflicting and contradictory messages from different agents of socialization.


-       The family is probably the single most important agent of socialization.  Parent, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and siblings  teach us what to do and what not to do.  The family will be with most of us our entire life.  

-       Peers (anticipatory and developmental socialization)  by interacting with others we learn what is expected of us, how to fit in with society, and how to attain others’ acceptance.  We learn how to adjust to new situations as a result of our interaction with other people who are already in these situations.  Peer are most influential agents of socialization. 


-       Educational system, this institution instills many beliefs, attitudes, and behavior that no other agent teaches us.  Provides variety of knowledge about many subjects.  Teaches punctuality, patriotism, dress appropriately patience and respect fro our peer, accepting and respecting the authority of people who are not our relatives.  (First jobs)


-       Mass Media, most potent sources for providing and reinforcing anticipatory socialization.  Exposure to book, magazines, TV, radio, movies.  Mas media provide consistent portrayals of certain groups, and when we are exposed over and over again to these messages, we become susceptible to believing what we see, read, and hear.   

You Tube look at how you have been socialized by gender.  Click on the video below to see examples.  It is the same as the you tube link above. 

Kids who have not been socialized Feral Children 

How the Nazi's socialized it's youth

Gender Socialization from Disney 


Socialization of how we see girls and boys gender types

Hitler youth schools

Hitler's schools and controlling the Youth

Schools for Hitler Youth Girls

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Possible Assignment:  Authentic Assessment of Socialization:  This assignment is also on the socialization page you just came from.  You will pick a person who you see as a role model in your life, two choices either (you must know this person so well that you know about their life and what they would say to any question asked of them.  Chose a person who you look up to, who you could do a biography of their life according to you.   Pictures would be great, a descriptions are necessary) 

1.  You will use a person that has had a big influence on your life, regarding the following character traits:  Honesty / Trustworthiness, Caring, Responsibility,  respect for others and Fairness.

       - Who were the agents of socialization that have made them who they are today?    What skills, norms and values were indoctrinated in what stage.

2.  How did this person affect your life?