Social psychology

This chapter has discussed the life course and gender roles in American society. So-
DeLamater, John D., et al. Social Psychology, Routledge, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central,
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cialization is the process through which infants become effective participants in so- ciety. It makes us like all other members of society in certain ways (shared language) but distinctive in other ways.
Perspectives on Socialization. (1) One approach to the study of socialization em- phasizes biological development; it views the emergence of interpersonal responsive- ness and the development of speech and of cognitive structure as influenced by matu- ration. (2) Another approach emphasizes learning and the acquisition of skills from other persons. (3) A third approach empha- sizes the child’s discovery of cultural rou- tines as he or she participates in them. (4) A fourth approach emphasizes the influence of social structure, which specifies who is responsible for socializing children, adoles- cents, and other types of persons, and what they should be taught.

Agents of Childhood Socialization. There are four major socializing agents in child- hood. (1) The family provides the infant with a strong attachment to one or more caregivers. This bond is necessary for the infant to develop interpersonal and cogni- tive skills. Family composition and social class affect socialization by influencing the amount and kind of interaction between parent and child. Ethnic and racial groups differ in the child-rearing techniques they use and in the values they emphasize. (2) Peers provide the child with equal status relationships and are an important influ- ence on the development of self. (3) Schools teach skills—reading, writing, and arithme- tic—as well as traits like punctuality and perseverance. (4) Mass media provide chil- dren and adolescents with powerful images of some of the identities available in the society and scripts for various types of rela- tionships and behaviors.

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introduction 66 outcomes of Socialization 87
Perspectives on Socialization 67
theDevelopmentalPerspective 67 theSociallearningPerspective 68 theinterpretivePerspective 69 theimpactofSocialStructure 70
Agents of Childhood Socialization 70
family 71 Peers 77 School 79 massmedia 80
Processes of Socialization 81
instrumentalconditioning 81 observationallearning 85 internalization 86
Genderrole 87
linguistic and cognitive competence 90
moralDevelopment 93 Workorientations 97
the Life Course 98
componentsofthelifecourse 99
influences on life course Progression 102
historicalVariations 107
Summary 112
List of Key Terms and Concepts 114
Critical Thinking Skill: Understanding the Difference Between Truth and Validity 114
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66 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
My daughter is the percussionist in her
middle-school band. At the first session in
September when the director asked for vol- unteers, six boys shouted “Me!” “I want to do it!” and so on. Then the director asked, “Who can play the piano?” Kimberly and two other girls raised their hands. The band director auditioned the three girls. He wanted a percussionist who could read mu- sic; a really good idea.
Kimberly got the position. She jumped right in, practicing on the bass drum, the snare drum, and the chimes after school; we had to pick her up when she finished because she missed the bus. She brought the drums home sometimes on weekends (I had to pick her up and transport the in- struments on Friday, and return her and the instruments on Monday morning). I was amazed. I had no musical talent at all, and here she was improving every week.
I had gone to a small school. The admin- istration wanted a big band. I knew I had no talent or even training. but everybody had to audition. The band director gave me a clari- net and said, “Just move your fingers in time to the music.” I lasted about two concerts, after which he grudgingly conceded that I couldn’t play at all and dismissed me from the band. Of course, the 95 percent of the students who were still in the band made my life hell for several weeks. So I was really pleased that Kimberly not only made the band, but was practicing and improving and getting good! I could hardly believe it. She wasn’t like me at all. But I was really proud!
In late October, the band gave their first
public concert. I was in the second row. It was great! They played the “Star Spangled Banner,” then a couple of short pieces, a march by John Philip Souza, “The Tem- pest,” and finished with “The Pirates of the Caribbean theme.” It was awesome!! I was so proud of her. The audience, mostly par-
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ents of the band members, loved it. I waited outside the band room after the concert.
She was the last band member to come out. I saw her, smiled, and walked toward her with my arms out. I hugged her. She started crying. “Dad, I was awful.” I was stunned. I stuttered and said, “No, you were great.” She said, “I missed my cue once, and my timing was off in the Souza.” I said, “I didn’t notice, and I am sure no one else did.”
She is like me—a perfectionist. It is won- derful that she has musical talent. She also got my perfectionism.
One of the striking features of social life is that there is great continuity from one generation to the next—continuity both in physical characteristics and in behav- ior. Genetic inheritance is one source of continuity. But a major contributor to in- tergenerational similarity is socialization, the ways in which individuals learn and re-create skills, knowledge, values, motives, and roles appropriate to their positions in a group or society.
How does an infant become “human”—
that is, an effective participant in society?
The answer is, through socialization. As we grew from infancy, we interacted continu- ally with others. We learned to speak a lan- guage—a prerequisite for participation in society. We learned basic interaction rituals, such as greeting a stranger with a handshake and a loved one with a kiss. We also learned the socially accepted ways to achieve various goals, both material (food, clothing, shelter) and social (respect, love, help of others). As we learned these, we used them; as we used them, we re-created them—adapted them to our particular circumstances.
It is obvious that socialization makes us like most other members of society in im- portant ways. It is not so obvious that so- cialization also produces our individuality. The sense of self and the capacity to engage in self-oriented acts (discussed in Chap. 4) are a result of socialization.
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The first part of this chapter will examine
childhood socialization. By childhood, we mean the period from birth to adolescence. Childhood is a social concept, shaped by historical, cultural, and political influences (Elkin & Handel, 1989). In contemporary American society, we define children as im- mature—in need of training at home and of a formal education. The second part exam- ines socialization beyond childhood.
The discussion focuses on the following
five questions:
1. What are the basic perspectives in the study of socialization?
2. What are the socializing agents in contemporary American society?
3. What are the processes through which socialization occurs?
4. What are the outcomes of socialization in childhood?
5. What is the nature of socialization in adolescence and adulthood?
PerSPectIveS on SocIalIzatIon
Which is the more important influence
on behavior—nature or nurture, heredity or environment? This question has been especially important to those who study children. Although both influences are im- portant, one view emphasizes biological development (heredity), whereas another emphasizes social learning (environment).
The Developmental Perspective
The human child obviously undergoes a process of maturation. He or she grows physically, develops motor skills in a rela- tively uniform sequence, and begins to en-
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Responsiveness to another person develops
early in life. By 16 weeks of age, a child smiles in response to a human face. By 28 weeks, a child can distinguish caregivers from strangers. © video1/ iStock
gage in various social behaviors at about the same age as most other children.
Some theorists view socialization as largely dependent on processes of physi- cal and psychological maturation, which are biologically determined. Gesell and Ilg (1943) documented the sequence in which motor and social skills develop and the ages at which each new ability appears in the av- erage child. They viewed the development of many social behaviors as primarily due to physical and neurological maturation, not social factors. For example, toilet training requires voluntary control over sphincter muscles and the ability to recognize cues of pressure on the bladder or lower intestine. According to developmental theory, when children around age 21⁄2 develop these skills, they learn by themselves without environ- mental influences.
Table 3.1 lists the sequences of devel- opment of various abilities that have been identified by observational research. The ages shown are approximate; some children will exhibit the behavior at younger ages, whereas others will do so later.
As an example, consider the develop- ment of responsiveness to other persons. As early as 4 weeks, many infants respond to close physical contact by relaxing. At 16
soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE 67
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68 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE TABle 3.1 The Process of Development
16 WeekS
28 WeekS
1 YeAr
2 YeArS
3 YeArS
Visual Activity
Follows objects with eyes; eyes adjust to objects at varying distances
Watches activity intently; hand- eye coordination
Enjoys watching moving objects (like TV picture)
to stimuli in periphery of visual field; looks intently for long periods
Smiles at human face; responds to caregiver’s voice; demands social attention
Responds to variation in tone of voice; differentiates people (fears strangers)
Engages in responsive play; shows emotions, anxiety;
shows definite preferences for some persons
Prefers solitary play; rudimentary concept of ownership
Can play cooperatively with an older child; strong desire to please; gender differences in choice of toys, materials
Vocal Activity
Vocalizes pleasure (coos, gurgles, laughs); babbles (strings of syllable-like sounds)
Vocalizes vowels and consonants; tries to imitate sounds
Vocalizes syllables; practices two to eight known words
Vocalizes constantly; names actions; repeats words
Uses three-word sentences; likes novel words
Bodily Movement
Can hold head up; can roll over
Can sit up;
Can stand; can climb up and down stairs
Can run; likes large-scale motor activity— push, pull, roll
Motion fluid, smooth; good coordination
Manual dexterity
Touches objects
Can grasp with one hand; manipulates objects
Manipulates objects serially
Good control of hand and arm
Good fine-motor control— uses fingers, thumb, wrist well
Source: Adapted from Caplan, 1973; and The Infant and Child in the Culture of Today (1943) by Arnold Gesell and Frances L. Ilg. Used with permission of the Gesell Institute of Human development.
weeks, babies can discriminate the human face and usually smile in response. They also show signs of recognizing the voice of their usual caregiver. By 28 weeks, the infant clearly differentiates faces and re- sponds to variations in facial expression. At 1 year, the child shows a variety of emotions in response to others’ behavior. He or she will seek interaction with adults or with sib- lings by crawling or walking toward them and tugging on clothing. Thus, recognition of, responsiveness to, and orientation to- ward adults follow a uniform developmen- tal pattern. The ability to interact with oth-
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ers depends in part on the development of visual and auditory discrimination.
Development continues throughout life. Important physical and hormonal changes occur during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause/later life and impact on motiva- tion and behavior. Recognition of this life- long process is one aspect of the life-course perspective, discussed later in this chapter.
The Social Learning Perspective
Whereas the developmental perspective focuses on the unfolding of the child’s own
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abilities, the social learning perspective em- phasizes the child’s acquisition of cognitive and behavioral skills in interaction with the environment. Successful socialization re- quires that the child acquire considerable information about the world. The child must learn about many physical or natural realities, such as what animals are danger- ous and which things are edible. Children also must learn about the social environ- ment. They must learn the language used by people around them to communicate their needs to others. They also need to learn the meanings their caregivers associate with various actions. Children need to learn to identify the kinds of persons encountered in their immediate environment. They need to learn what behaviors they can expect of people, as well as others’ expectations for their own behavior.
According to the social learning perspec- tive, socialization is primarily a process of children learning the shared meanings of the groups in which they are reared (Shibu- tani, 1961). Such variation in meanings gives groups, subcultures, and societies their dis- tinctiveness. Although the content—what is learned—varies from group to group, the processes by which social learning takes place are universal. This viewpoint empha- sizes the adaptive nature of socialization. The infant learns the verbal and interper- sonal skills necessary to interact success- fully with others. The processes by which this occurs are the concern of reinforce- ment theory. Having acquired these skills, children can perpetuate the meanings that distinguish their social groups and even add to or modify these meanings by introducing innovations of their own.
Recent research on socialization has con- sidered both the importance of develop- mental processes and the influence of social learning. The developmental age of the child obviously determines which acts the child can perform. Infants less than 6 months old
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cannot walk. All cultures have adapted to these developmental limitations by coordi- nating the performance expectations placed on children with the maturation of their abilities. However, developmental processes alone are not sufficient for the emergence of complex social behavior. In addition to de- velopmental readiness, social interaction— learning—is necessary for the development of language. This is illustrated by the case of Isabelle, who lived alone with her deaf- mute mother until the age of 61⁄2. When she was discovered, she was unable to make any sound other than a croak. Yet within 2 years after she entered a systematic educational program, her vocabulary numbered more than 1,500 words and she had the linguistic skills of a 6-year-old (Davis, 1947).
Thus, both nature and nurture influence
behavior. Developmental processes pro- duce a readiness to perform certain behav- iors. The content of these behaviors is de- termined primarily by social learning—that is, by cultural influences.
The Interpretive Perspective
Socialization occurs primarily through so- cial interaction. Whereas the social learn- ing perspective emphasizes the process of learning—for example, the role of rein- forcement in the acquisition of behavior— the interpretive perspective (Corsaro & Fingerson, 2003) focuses on the interaction itself. Drawing on symbolic interaction the- ory (see Chap. 1), this perspective views the child’s task as the discovery of the mean- ings common to the social group (such as the family or a school band). This process of discovery requires communication with parents, other adults, and other children. Especially important is the child’s partici- pation in cultural routines, which are re- current and predictable activities that are basic to day-to-day social life (Corsaro & Fingerson, 2003). Greeting rituals, common
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70 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
games, and mealtime patterns are examples of such cultural routines. These routines provide a sense of security and of belong- ing to a group. At the same time, their pre- dictability enables children to use them to display their developing cultural knowledge and skills. A good example is Kimberly, who we met in the opening essay. There are cul- tural routines for playing a musical instru- ment, but Kimberly, like other young musi- cians, develops her own particular style in playing the snare drum.
According to this perspective, socializa- tion is a process of interpretive reproduction. Children don’t simply learn culture. In daily interaction, children use the language and interpretive skills that they are learning or discovering. As they become more proficient in communicating and more knowledgeable about the meanings shared in the family and school, children attain a deeper understand- ing of the culture. Children, through interac- tion, acquire and reproduce the culture.
When children communicate with one another (as in school or at play), they do not simply imitate the acquired culture. They use what they have learned to create their own somewhat unique peer culture. Chil- dren take a traditional game such as one group chasing another group and change the rules to fit their needs and the physical and social context in which they are enact- ing the game. In the 1950s the two groups were often cowboys and Indians; in the 2000s they might be cops and Blacks (Goff- man, 2014). The changed rules become part of a new routine of chase. Thus, from an early age, children are not just imitating culture, but creating it.
The Impact of Social Structure
A fourth perspective emphasizes the influ- ence of social structure. Socialization is not a random process. Teaching new members the rules of the game is too important to be left to chance. Socialization is organized
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according to the sequence of roles that newcomers to the society ordinarily pass through. In American society, these include familial roles, such as son or daughter, and roles in educational institutions, such as preschooler, elementary school student, and high school student. These are age-linked roles; we expect transitions from one role to another to occur at certain ages. Distinctive socialization outcomes are sought for those who occupy each role. Thus, we expect young children to learn language and ba- sic norms governing such diverse activities as eating, dressing, and bowel and bladder control. Most preschool programs will not enroll a child who has not learned the latter.
Furthermore, social structure designates the persons or organizations responsible for producing desired outcomes. In a complex society such as ours, there is a sequence of roles and a corresponding sequence of so- cializing agents (see Box 3.1). From birth through adolescence, the family is primarily responsible for socializing the child. From ages 6 to 12, a child is an elementary school student; we expect elementary school teachers to teach the basics to their stu- dents. Next, the adolescent becomes a high school student, with yet another group of agents to further develop his or her knowl- edge and abilities. In adulthood, men and women become partners and coworkers, and need to learn these roles from persons in related roles.
This perspective is sociological; it con- siders socialization as a product of group life. It calls our attention to the changing content of and responsibility for socializa- tion throughout the individual’s life. This theme is fundamental to the life-course perspective, discussed later in this chapter.
agentS of chIldhood SocIalIzatIon
Socialization has four components. It al- ways involves (1) an agent—someone who
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serves as a source for what is being learned; (2) a learning process; (3) a target—a per- son who is being socialized; and (4) an out- come—something that is being learned. This section will consider the four primary agents of childhood socialization—family, peers, school, and mass media. Later sec- tions will focus on the processes and out- comes of childhood socialization.
At birth, infants are primarily aware of their own bodies. Hunger, thirst, or pain creates unpleasant and perhaps overwhelming bodily tensions. The infant’s primary con- cern is to remove these tensions and satisfy bodily needs. To meet the infant’s needs, adult caregivers must learn to read the in- fant’s signals accurately (Ainsworth, 1979). Also, infants begin to perceive their princi- pal caregivers as the source of need satisfac- tion. These early experiences are truly in- teractive (Bell, 1979). The adult learns how to care effectively for the infant, and the in- fant forms a strong emotional attachment to the caregiver.
Is a Mother Necessary? Does it matter who responds to and establishes a caring relation- ship with the infant? Must there be a single principal caregiver in infancy and childhood for effective socialization to occur?
Psychoanalytic theory (as originally framed by Freud) asserts that an intimate emotional relationship between infant and caregiver (almost always the mother at the time Freud wrote) is essential to healthy personality development. This was one of the first hypotheses to be studied empiri- cally. To examine the effects of the absence of a single, close caregiver on children, re- searchers have studied institutionalized infants. In the earliest reported work, Spitz (1945, 1946) studied an institution in which six nurses cared for 45 infants under 18 months old. The nurses met the infants’ ba-
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sic biological needs. However, they had lim- ited contact with the babies, and there was little evidence of emotional ties between the nurses and the infants. Within 1 year, the infants’ scores on developmental tests fell dramatically from an average of 124 to an average of 72. Within 2 years, one-third had died, 9 had left, and the 21 who remained in the institution were severely retarded. Recent research on children who lived in orphanages for an average of 16 months fol- lowing birth found that at age 41⁄2, they had significant difficulty matching facial expres- sions of emotion with stories, compared to children from control families (Fries & Pollak, 2004). These findings dramatically support the hypothesis that an emotionally responsive caregiver is essential.
Thus, infants need a secure attach- ment—a warm, close relationship with an adult that produces a sense of security and provides stimulation—to develop the in- terpersonal and cognitive skills needed for proper growth (Ainsworth, 1979). More- over, being cared for in such a relation- ship provides the foundation of the infant’s sense of self.
For many decades, gender role defini- tions in American society made mothers primarily responsible for raising children. Fathers’ parental responsibility was to work outside the home and provide the income needed by the family. The division of la- bor in many families conformed to these definitions. As a result, some analysts concluded that a warm, intimate, contin- uous relationship between a child and its mother is essential to normal child devel- opment (Bowlby, 1965). Perhaps only in the mother-infant relation can the child expe- rience the necessary sense of security and emotional warmth. According to this view, other potential caregivers have less emo- tional interest in the infant and may not be adequate substitutes.
Research on parent-child interaction in- dicates that if mothers are sensitive to the
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72 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
child’s needs and responsive to his or her
distress in the first year of life, the child is
more likely to develop a secure attachment (Demo & Cox, 2001). This is true in both two-parent and mother-only families. In- fants who are securely attached to their mothers in the first 2 years of life evidence less problem behavior and more coopera- tive behavior from ages 4 to 10. Thus, se- cure mother-infant attachment is associ- ated with positive outcomes (see Box 3.1). Research also indicates that a father’s sen- sitivity to the child at 13 months is associ- ated with father-child attachment at 3 years of age (Brown, Manglesdorf, & Neff, 2012). Thus, parent-child attachment does not de- pend on the parent’s gender.
A related question is whether children
need or benefit from having both a male and
a female parent—that is, does the gender of parents matter? Researchers (Biblarz & Stacy, 2010) compared studies of two-par- ent families with same or different gender co-parents with studies of single-parent families. The relationships between par- enting practices and child outcomes re- ported in studies of heterosexual families were also found in lesbian families, and in the few studies of gay co-parents that have been published. In general, in single-parent families, children fared better with a single mother than a single father, but such fami- lies differ on important dimensions like cir- cumstances of formation, gender of child, and income.
Since 1960, gender role definitions have
been changing. Married women with chil- dren are increasingly working outside the home (see Figure 3.3). The effects of ma- ternal employment on the child is a major continuing public concern.
Effects of Maternal Employment. What effect does maternal employment have on children? A meta-analysis of 69 stud- ies found mostly nonsignificant effects on
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children’s achievement outcomes—IQ, test scores—and child behavior problems (Lu- cas-Thompson, Goldberg, & Prause, 2010). Early employment was most beneficial in single-parent families. Employment during the child’s first year had a small negative effect.
The Fragile Families and Child Well- being researchers collected data from White, Black, and Hispanic families. Re- searchers analyzed the relationship be- tween maternal employment during the child’s first year and several outcomes at 3 years of age. Maternal employment was associated with lower vocabulary scores in White, but not Black or Hispanic families, and with higher levels of behavior problems in Hispanic families (Berger, Brooks-Gunn, Paxson, & Waldfogel, 2008). These out- comes were not related to maternal stress or parenting behaviors. A study of the ef- fects of employment during the preceding year found that it was associated with fewer positive mother-child interactions, and less reading with parents at ages 2 and 4 (No- maguchi, 2006).
There have been dozens of studies of the effects of maternal employment on achieve- ment outcomes in children and adolescents. A meta-analysis of 68 studies looked at four outcomes: tests of achievement, tests of in- tellectual functioning, grades, and teacher ratings of cognitive competence (Gold- berg, Prause, Lucas-Thompson, & Him- sel, 2008). Comparing children of mothers who worked (including part- and full-time) with children of mothers who did not, there were no significant differences on the four outcomes. Part-time work was positively associated with all four outcomes; there were more positive effects for girls.
The effects of maternal employment
on older children depend partly on work characteristics. Nonstandard work (for ex- ample, working nights or rotating shifts) can negatively affect parent-child closeness
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soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE 73 Box 3.1 Test Yourself: Attachment in Children and Adults
Which of the following best describes your feel- ings about relationships?
1. I find it relatively easy to get close to others and am comfortable depending on them and having them depend on me. I don’t often worry about being abandoned or someone getting too close to me.
2. I am somewhat uncomfortable being close to others; I find it difficult to trust them com- pletely, difficult to allow myself to depend on them. I am nervous when anyone gets too close, and often, love partners want me to be more intimate than I feel comfortable being.
3. I find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I often worry that my partner doesn’t really love me or won’t want to stay with me. I want to merge completely with another person, and this desire sometimes scares people away. (Hazan & Shaver, 1987)
Each of these statements represents one at-
tachment style, an individual’s characteristic way of relating to significant others (Hazan & Shaver, 1987). The first describes a secure style, the sec- ond an avoidant style, and the third an anxious/ ambivalent style.
The roots of the individual’s style may be found in childhood. Ainsworth (1979) identified three styles of attachment in caregiver-child in- teractions. The attachment style of a young child is assessed by observing how the child relates to his or her caregiver when distressed (by, for example, a brief separation in a strange envi- ronment). The secure child readily approaches the caregiver and seeks comfort. The avoidant child does not approach the caregiver and ap- pears detached. The anxious/ambivalent child
approaches the caregiver and expresses anger or hostility toward him or her. Children as young as 2 years behave consistently in one of these ways when distressed.
We bring the style we developed as children into our intimate adult relationships. Surveys of adults (for example, Hazan & Shaver, 1987) have found that about 55 percent describe themselves as secure, 25 percent as avoidant, and 20 percent as anxious/ambivalent. Attachment style influ- ences our responses to other people (Feeney, 1999). It leads us to pay attention to certain as- pects of a person (for example, his or her trustwor- thiness), creates biases in memory (we remem- ber events consistent with our style), and affects how we explain relationship events. A secure per- son will ignore an event (his partner talking to an attractive person) that would make an anxious person feel jealous. Attachment style also influ- ences relationship quality. Men and women who describe themselves as secure report that their romantic relationships involve interdependence, trust, and commitment (Simpson, 1990). Adults who describe themselves as avoidant say that they do not trust others and are afraid of getting close (Feeney & Noller, 1990). Those who are anx- ious/ambivalent report intense emotions toward the partner and a desire for deep commitment in a relationship. Since attachment style develops on the basis of childhood experience, analysts assume that it precedes adult relationships. Lon- gitudinal data point to stability in style over time (Feeney, 1999). However, particularly significant relationship experiences may lead to change in style. A secure person who spends a long time with someone who is chronically unfaithful un- derstandably may become anxious.
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74 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
and delay cognitive development (Crosnoe & Cavanagh, 2010). Mother’s exposure to physical hazards at work also negatively affects cognitive development, and expo- sure to work-related stressors has a nega- tive effect on behavior (Felfe & Hsin, 2012). Father’s exposure to physical hazards and stressors may have similar effects.
What about the effects of child care? It
depends on the type, quality, and amount of care. A large-scale research project con- ducted at 10 sites around the United States followed 1,000 children from birth. At age 41⁄2, children who experienced higher-qual- ity care and whose care was provided in a center had significantly better cognitive skills and language performance; quality was measured using observers who com- pleted a standardized observational re- cord. Children who received more hours of care between the ages of 3 months and 41⁄2 years were given higher ratings on behavior problems (on the 113-item Child Behavior Checklist) by care providers. Twenty-four percent of the sample were children of color; it appears that the results do not vary by ethnicity (NICHD Early Child Care Research Network, 1997a, 1997b, 2002; Belsky, 2006).
Researchers have continued to follow these youth. At age 15, both quality and quantity of nonrelative child care at young ages were linked to adolescent outcomes. Higher quality care predicted higher cogni- tive and academic achievement, and youth reports of fewer school and emotional problems (Vandell et al., 2010).
Father’s Involvement with Children. The broadening of maternal role definitions to include work outside the home has been ac- companied by changes in expectations for fathers. This new ideology of fatherhood, promoted by television and film, encour- ages active involvement of fathers in child care and child rearing (Parke, 1996). Some
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men have adopted these expectations for
themselves. Research finds that married fathers spent significantly more time with their child(ren) each day in 1998 than they did in 1965 (Sayer, Bianchi, & Robinson, 2004). The father’s contribution is often through rough-and-tumble play; such play is thought to facilitate the child’s develop- ment of motor skills. Fathers increasingly also engage in child care and developmental activities. These patterns are found in Eu- ropean-American, African-American, and Hispanic two-parent families (Parke, 1996).
Several variables influence the extent of
fathers’ involvement with their children. Maternal attitudes are one important factor; a father is more involved when the mother encourages and supports his participation. Maternal employment is another influence. Husbands of employed women are more involved in child care and in some cases provide full-time care for the child. Also, a study found that lower levels of stress on the job and greater support from cowork- ers for being an active father were associ- ated with greater involvement (Volling & Belsky, 1991). Thus, research suggests that work stressors have negative effects on both fathers’ and mothers’ involvement in child rearing. Research on Mexican-American families finds that a positive relationship between mother and father was related to quality fathering (Formoso, Gonzales, Bar- rera, & Dumka, 2007). Finally, parental ed- ucation is positively related to time spent with children by both fathers and mothers (Guryan, Hurst, & Kearney, 2008).
Child Rearing in a Diverse Society. There is diversity in the living arrangements of children in the United States today. Table 3.2 indicates the living arrangements of all children in 2000 (Lichter & Qian, 2004). Sixty-one percent of all children lived with married parents. Fifteen percent lived with a single mother; note that more than 2 mil-
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TABle 3.2 children’s living Arrangements, 2000, 2007
All ChIlDren
Working father/ nonworking mother
Two parents
78% 75
38% 34
87% 86
68% 63
Married, both working
Biological mother & father
Male-headed 2.3
Female, never married 5 Grandparents 6
Female, previously married
Cohabiting couple
Source: All: Lichter and Qian. (2004). Marriage and Family in a Multiracial Society. New York Russell Sage Foundation, Table 6. By race/ethnicity: U.S. Bureau of the Census (2007). Survey of Income and Program Participation, 2004 Panel, Wave 2, Table 1.
lion children are living with a single father (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2005). These arrangements vary by race/ethnicity, as seen in the right-hand panel of Table 3.2. In 2007, compared to White (18%) and Asian (9%), more African-American children lived with a single mother (50%). Asian children were most likely (82%) to live with married, biological parents, compared to White (68%), Hispanic (61%), and Black (31%) (Krieder & Ellis, 2011).
Studies of socialization have focused on child-rearing techniques or parenting styles and their impact on cognitive and social de- velopment. Research has consistently found that authoritative parenting—character- ized by high levels of warmth combined with control—benefits children. Reliance by parents on this style is associated with greater achievement in school and positive relations with other adults and peers. Au- thoritarian styles, including physical pun- ishment, and permissive styles are more likely to be associated with poor adjustment in childhood (Demo & Cox, 2001).
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Spanking of children ages 1 to 3 is more likely when the child is fussy or has behav- ior problems, the mother is experiencing psychological distress, and the family is low SES (Hahlweg et al., 2008). In a large, eth- nically diverse sample, spanking at ages 1 and 2 is associated with behavior problems at school entry (Slade & Wissow, 2004). In low-income White, African-American, and Mexican-American families, spanking at age 1 predicts aggressive behavior at age 2 and lower mental development scores at age 3 (Berlin et al., 2009).
The negative outcomes reported by re- search to be associated with physical pun- ishment and authoritarian styles of par- enting lead some observers to conclude that these are improper child-rearing tech- niques. Minority researchers challenge the validity of this conclusion for minority families (McLoyd, Cauce, Takeuchi, & Wil- son, 2001). White and Black mothers living in poverty are more likely to use physical punishment, partly due to chronic financial stress (Demo & Cox, 2001). Research by
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76 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
Deater-Deckard and Dodge (1997) has sug- gested that physical discipline is more com- mon in African-American families and that they define it as positive parenting. Other research (Chao, 1994) has suggested that Asian-American parents rely on providing training and clear and concrete guidelines for behavior, and that this should not be seen as authoritarian.
With respect to values, White parents emphasize the development of autonomy (Alwin, 1990), which is consistent with the mainstream culture’s emphasis on individu- alism and independence. Minority children are more likely to be socialized to value co- operation and interdependence (Demo & Cox, 2001). African-American parents tend to emphasize assertiveness, whereas Mex- ican-American families emphasize family unity and solidarity with the extended fam- ily. Asian-American parents teach children to value family authority. Thus, as we would expect, socialization in distinctive com- munities tends to emphasize the values of those communities.
Contemporary scholars stress that the meaning and the impact on the child of a parenting technique varies depending upon cultural background, family structure, and social context. This suggests that we should focus on specific techniques and not group differences in their use (Crosnoe & Cava- nagh, 2010). Scholars also point to diversity within racial categories, rendering gener- alizations about a group, such as Blacks or Hispanics, questionable (Burton et al., 2010).
Effects of Divorce. Forty to fifty percent of all marriages end in divorce (Cherlin, 2010); the probability of marital disruption is much lower for a woman with a college education. About one-half of these divorces involve children under the age of 18 years. Divorce usually involves several major changes in the life of a child: a change in family struc- ture, a change in residence, a change in the
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family’s financial resources, and perhaps a change of schools. Therefore, it is difficult to isolate the effects of divorce—the change in family structure—independently of these other changes. Research consistently finds that the number of transitions a child expe- riences is positively associated with unde- sirable outcomes (Cherlin, 2010). An addi- tional confounding fact is that divorce is not a one-time crisis; it is a process that begins with marital discord while the couple is liv- ing together, continues through physical separation and legal proceedings, and ends, if ever, when those involved have completed the uncoupling process (Amato, 2001).
Research comparing children of di- vorced with children of married parents has consistently found that the children of divorced parents score lower on measures of academic success (such as grades), psy- chological adjustment, self-esteem, and long-term health, among other outcomes (Amato, 2001). Some research (for exam- ple, Hetherington, 1999) has reported that these deficits were present several years be- fore the divorce, leading to the suggestion that children’s problem behaviors cause the discord that leads to divorce. However, if we view the divorce as a process, problems prior to the divorce could be caused by the marital discord. A few studies report posi- tive consequences for some children. Some offspring, especially daughters, develop very positive relationships with custodial mothers (Arditti, 1999).
The view of divorce as a one-time crisis implies that children will show improved function as the time since divorce increases. Some studies (for example, Jekielek, 1998) report that children’s well-being does im- prove over time. On the other hand, longi- tudinal research finds that the gap in well- being between children of divorced parents and children of intact couples increases (Cherlin, Chase-Lansdale, & McRae, 1998) or remains the same (Sun & Li, 2002) over
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time. A unique study documents intergen-
erational effects of divorce. The researchers reported negative effects on subsequent ac- ademic achievement, later marital discord, and weak ties to mothers and fathers in both the second and third generations (that is, effects on children and grandchildren) (Amato & Cheadle, 2005).
Although most people acknowledge the
undesirability of divorce, it is often justified
with the argument that it is less harmful than growing up in a family with chronic marital, social, and perhaps economic problems. Is this true? A longitudinal study in Great Britain followed thousands of children from birth to age 33, enabling re- searchers to compare adults whose parents divorced when they were 7 to 16, 17 to 20, or 21 to 33 years of age (Furstenberg & Kier- nan, 2001). The results show that men and women whose parents divorced when they were 7 to 16, compared to men and women whose parents divorced when they were older, completed less schooling and earned higher scores on an index of psychologi- cal symptoms; women were more likely to drink heavily as adults. The researchers also found higher rates of early and nonmari- tal pregnancy among those whose parents had divorced early. All of these results have been reported in studies of persons in the United States (Demo & Acock, 1988; Garf- inkel & McLanahan, 1986). Reduced educa- tional attainment and early parenthood and marriage result in a higher rate of poverty among adults raised in single-parent fami- lies (McLanahan & Booth, 1989).
A review of research on low-income families (often single-parent families) con- cludes that the need for the parent(s) to work long hours in order to earn enough money shifts the burden of family labor onto one or more children, usually girls. This labor includes caring for younger sib- lings, cooking, and cleaning; it prevents the person providing it from focusing on ed-
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ucation and taking advantage of extracur- ricular and other opportunities, and may funnel her into early childbearing and mar- riage (Dodson & Dickert, 2004). Very few studies have been done of the effects of di- vorce in non-European-American families. We don’t know whether we would find the effects described here in racial and ethnic minority groups.
As the child grows, his or her peers become increasingly important as socializing agents. The peer group differs from the family on several dimensions. These differences in- fluence the type of interaction and thus the kinds of socialization that occur.
The family consists of persons who differ
in status or power, whereas the peer group is composed of relative equals. From an early age, the child is taught to treat parents with respect and deference. Failure to do so will probably result in discipline, and the adult will use the incident as an opportunity to instruct the child about the importance of deference (Cahill, 1987; Denzin, 1977). Interaction with peers is more open and spontaneous; the child does not need to be deferential or tactful. Thus, children at the age of 4 years bluntly refuse to let children they dislike join their games. With peers, they may say things that adults consider insulting, such as “You’re ugly,” to another child. This interactional give-and-take is a basic aspect of the friendship process (Cor- saro & Fingerson, 2003).
Membership in a particular family is as- cribed, whereas peer interactions are volun- tary (Gecas, 1990). Thus, peer groups offer children their first experience in exercising choice over whom they relate to. The op- portunity to make such choices contributes to the child’s sense of social competence and allows interaction with other children who complement the developing identity.
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American society is highly segregated by age. Most of us spend most of our time with people of about the same age. This is especially true in childhood and adolescence, because age segre- gation is the fundamental organizing principle of our schools. Research provides important sights into the nature of peer groups and their signifi- cance for socialization.
Among preschool-age children, a major con- cern is social participation. Kids in American society learn about the role of friends and the expectations associated with that role. Their un- derstanding of this role provides a basis for eval- uating their relationships with other children. As children begin to play in groups, maintaining access to the group becomes an issue. Children become concerned with issues of inclusion and exclusion—who is in the group and who is not. These issues remain important ones throughout childhood and into adolescence (Adler & Adler, 1995).
Peer groups reflect the desire of children to gain some control over the social environment and to use that control in concert with other children (Corsaro & Eder, 1995). Children be-
Unlike the child’s family, peer groups in early and especially middle childhood (aged 6 to 10) are usually homogeneous in sex and age. A survey of 2,299 children in third through twelfth grade measured the ex- tent to which they belonged to tightly knit peer groups, the size of such groups, and whether they were homogeneous by race and gender (Schrum & Creek, 1987). The proportion belonging to a group peaked in sixth grade and then declined. The size of peer groups declined steadily from third through twelfth grade. Boys’ groups are generally larger than girls’ groups (Rose & Rudolph, 2006). A study of third through eighth graders found, controlling for the
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come concerned with gaining control over adult authority, and they learn that a request or plea by several children is more likely to be granted. In elementary school, children develop a strong group identity, which is strengthened by minor rebellions against adult authority. Thorne (1993) observed that in one fourth-/fifth-grade class- room, most of the students had contraband— small objects such as toy cars and trucks, nail pol- ish, and stuffed animals—which were prohibited by school rules. By keeping these items in desks and by displaying or exchanging them at key moments during class, the kids were displaying resistance, a form of nonconformity challenging the academic regime and rules in the classroom (McFarland, 2004). Both children and adolescents assert themselves by making fun of and mocking teachers and administrators. Peer groups play a major role in socializing young persons to gender role norms.
As children move through elementary school, they increasingly form groups that are homo- geneous by gender. For instance, in one study, Thorne (1993) observed that there is a geography of gender in the school yard. Boys generally were
number of boys and girls in each grade, sub- stantial sex homogeneity in both boys’ and girls’ networks (Neal, 2010). Sex homophily was consistent from grades three through nine; significant homophiliy by race de- veloped in seventh grade. Other research indicates that friendships of seventh- to twelfth-grade Black, Hispanic, and White students tend to be homogeneous by race (Quillian & Campbell, 2003).
Peer associations make a major contri- bution to the development of the child’s identity. Children learn the role of friend in interactions with peers, contributing to greater differentiation of the self (Corsaro & Rizzo, 1988). Peer and other relationships
Box 3.2 The Peer group
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soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE 79
found on the playing fields, whereas girls were concentrated in the areas closer to the building and in the jungle gyms. Children who violated these gender boundaries risked being teased or even ridiculed. Thorne identified several varieties of borderwork, which is “interaction across— yet interaction based on and even strengthen- ing—gender boundaries” (1993, p. 64). One form of borderwork was the chase, which almost al- ways involved a boy chasing a girl or vice versa. Another form was cooties, or treating an individ- ual or group as contaminated, which also was often cross-gender; girls were often identified as the ultimate source of contamination, whereas boys typically were not. Finally, invasion occurred when a group of boys physically occupied the space that girls were using for some activity; Thorne never observed girls invading a boys’ game. All of these activities involve the themes of gender and aggression—themes common to heterosexual relationships in American society. There is also the implicit message that boys and their activities are more important than girls and their activities.
In another study, Eder (1995) and her col- leagues observed peer relationships in a middle school for 3 years. during the sixth, seventh, and
outside the family provide a basis for estab- lishing independence; the child ceases to be exclusively involved in the roles of offspring, sibling, grandchild, and cousin. These alter- nate, nonfamilial identities may provide a basis for actively resisting parental social- ization efforts (Stryker & Serpe, 1982). For example, a parent’s attempt to enforce cer- tain rules may be resisted by a child whose friends make fun of children who behave that way. As suggested in Box 3.2, chil- dren actively resist adult culture through peer interaction and talk (Kyratzis, 2004). Playing house may provide an occasion for mimicking a parent, using parentlike words and tone. It may also provide “mom” with
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eighth grades, young adolescents shift their fo- cus from gender role norms to norms governing male-female relationships. Boys learn from other boys the “proper” view of girls; in some but not all groups, the prescribed view was that girls were objects of sexual conquest. Girls learn to view boys as potential participants in romantic relationships. Public teasing and ridicule of those who violate norms—common in elementary school—are replaced by gossip and exclusion from the group as sanctions for violations of group norms in middle school.
Eder (1995) also observed that the status hi- erarchy in the school generally reproduced the class structure of the wider community. Status was accorded to students based on popularity. One became popular by being visible. The most visible students were those on athletic teams and the cheerleader squad. Participating in these ac- tivities required money, as they were not funded by the school. Furthermore, the teams and cheer- leaders relied on parents to transport them to games, giving an advantage to students who had one parent who did not work or parents whose jobs allowed them to take time off for such ac- tivities. Not surprisingly, the popular, visible stu- dents were those from middle-class families.
the opportunity to be in charge, and decide which children are included and excluded from the game.
Although peer culture tends to be con- cerned with the present, it plays an import- ant role in preparing children and adoles- cents for role transitions. An observational study of Italian preschoolers found that the transition to elementary school was a com- mon topic of discussion and debate (Cor- saro & Molinari, 2000).
Unlike the peer group, school is intention- ally designed to socialize children. In the
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80 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
classroom, there is typically one adult and a group of children of similar age. There is a sharp status distinction between teacher and student. The teacher determines what skills he or she teaches and relies heavily on instrumental learning techniques, with such reinforcers as praise, blame, and priv- ileges to shape student behavior (Gecas, 1990). School is the child’s first experience with formal and public evaluation of per- formance. Every child’s behavior and work is evaluated by the same standards, and the judgments are made public to others in the class as well as to parents.
We expect schools to teach reading, writing, and arithmetic, but they do much more than that. Teachers use the rewards at their disposal to reinforce certain per- sonality traits, such as punctuality, perse- verance, and tact. Schools teach children which selves are desirable and which are not. Thus, children learn a vocabulary that they are expected to use in evaluating them- selves and others (Denzin, 1977). The traits chosen are those thought to facilitate social interaction throughout life in a particular culture or society. In this sense, schools civ- ilize children.
A key feature of social life in the United States is making statements or “claims” about reality and supporting them with evidence. Each of us engages in such dis- courses many times each day. In legislative arenas and courtrooms, there are multiple perspectives, each with its claims and sup- porting arguments contending for adher- ents. Schools, especially public speaking and debate classes and clubs, are the set- tings in which youth learn and hone these skills (Fine, 2000).
Social comparison has an important in-
fluence on the behavior of schoolchildren.
Because teachers make public evaluations of the children’s work, each child can judge his or her performance relative to the per- formance of others. These comparisons are
especially important to the child because of the homogeneity of the classroom group. Even if the teacher de-emphasizes a child’s low score on a spelling test, the child inter- prets the performance as a poor one relative to those of classmates. A consistent perfor- mance will affect a child’s image of self as a student.
An observational study of children in
kindergarten, first, second, and fourth
grades documented the development of so- cial comparison in the classroom (Frey & Ruble, 1985). In kindergarten, comparisons were made to personal characteristics—for example, liking ice cream. Comparisons of performance increased sharply in first grade; at first, comparisons were blatant, but they became increasingly subtle in sec- ond and fourth grades.
Mass Media
In recent decades the mass media has be- come a very influential agent of social- ization. Media portrayals—news articles, television programs, videos, films, internet sites—present information about every as- pect of daily life and the world around us. These images shape our perception of peo- ple, places and events, and thus influence our attitudes toward these objects. The im- ages also shape our scripts, our images of the people and behaviors that are appropri- ate in various types of relationships.
Media portrayals shape the child’s im- age of self as male or female, as well as their expectations about and treatment of oth- ers based on gender (and of course, race and age). Older children and adolescents learn schemas and scripts for various types of relationships from watching familial, romantic, and work relationships unfold on the movie or television screen and on YouTube. For example, Ward and Fried- man (2006) have shown that adolescents’ attitudes and sexual behavior are associated
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with viewing sexual content on television. Prime-time television in particular portrays a heterosexual script that includes not only behavioral but cognitive and emotional guidelines for men and women in romantic relationships (Kim et al., 2007).
In the discussion of aggression we will summarize the correlational and experi- mental evidence linking exposure to por- trayals of violence in the mass media with aggressive and violent behavior (see Chap. 11). There is also concern that viewing aggressive pornography contributes to vi- olence against girls and women. Another concern is the link between frequent play- ing of violent video games and murder or mass murder. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some recent incidents in which many people died from gunfire were perpetrated by persons with extensive exposure to “shooter” video games.
Media have an especially powerful so-
cializing effect because many children and
adolescents are exposed to media content several hours per day. According to a sur- vey of a nationally representative sample of children 6 and under, 75 percent watch TV, 32 percent watch videos, 16 percent use a computer, and 11 percent play video games (Rideout & Hamel, 2006). More than 40 percent of 2- to 6-year-olds spend two or more hours with screen media per day. The average number of hours per day spent in media activities by youth ages 8 to 18 are shown in Figure 3.1. Note that children 8 to 10 are exposed to media content almost 8 hours per day, while older children spend more than 11 with media.
ProceSSeS of SocIalIzatIon
How does socialization occur? We will ex- amine three processes that are especially important: instrumental conditioning, ob- servational learning, and internalization.
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Instrumental Conditioning
When you got dressed this morning, chances are you put on a shirt or blouse, pants, a dress, or a skirt that had buttons, hooks, or zippers. When you were younger, learning how to master buttons, hooks, zippers, and shoelaces undoubtedly took considerable time, trial and error, and slow progress ac- companied by praise from adults. You ac- quired these skills through instrumental conditioning, a process wherein a person learns what response to make in a situation in order to obtain a positive reinforcement or avoid a negative reinforcement. The per- son’s behavior is instrumental in the sense that it determines whether he or she is re- warded or punished.
The most important process in the ac- quisition of many skills is a type of instru- mental learning called shaping (Skinner, 1953, 1957). Shaping refers to learning in which an agent initially reinforces any be- havior that remotely resembles the desired response and later requires increasing cor- respondence between the learner’s behavior and the desired response before providing reinforcement. Shaping thus involves a se- ries of successive approximations in which the learner’s behavior comes closer and closer to resembling the specific response desired by the reinforcing agent.
In socialization, the degree of similarity between desired and observed responses required by the agent depends in part on the learner’s past performance. In this sense, shaping is interactive in character. In teaching children to clean their rooms, parents initially reward them for picking up their toys. When children show they can do this consistently, parents may require that the toys be placed on certain shelves as the condition for a reward. Shaping is more likely to succeed if the level of performance required is consistent with the child’s abil- ities. Thus, a 2-year-old may be praised
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4:00 3:41
1:46 1:39
1:01 1:08
TV Content
Music 8–10-year-olds
Computers 11–14-year-olds
Video Games 15–18-year-olds
Total Media Exposure
Total Media Use
3:03 2:22
FIgure 3.1 Media use by Age
Source: Rideout, Foehr, & Roberts (2010). Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds. Menlo Park, CA: Kaiser Family Foundation (p. 9).

Shaping is a process through which many complex behaviors, such as playing the violin, are learned. Initially, the socializer (teacher or parent) rewards behavior that resembles the desired response.
As learning progresses, greater correspondence between the behavior and the desired response is required to earn a reward, such as praise. © Bill Oxford/iStock
for drawing lines with crayons, whereas a 5-year-old may be expected to draw recog- nizable objects or figures.
Reinforcement Schedules. When shaping behavior, a socializing agent can use either positive reinforcement or negative rein- forcement. Positive reinforcers are stimuli whose presentation strengthens the learn- er’s response; positive reinforcers include food, candy, money, or high grades. Neg- ative reinforcers are stimuli whose with- drawal strengthens the response, such as the removal of pain. (Shaw & Costanzo, 1982)
In everyday practice, it is rare for a learner to be reinforced each time the de- sired behavior is performed. Instead, rein- forcement is given only some of the time. In fact, it is possible to structure when re- inforcements are presented to the learner, using a reinforcement schedule.
There are several possible reinforcement schedules. The fixed-interval schedule in-
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volves reinforcing the first correct response after a specified period has elapsed. This schedule produces the fewest correct re- sponses per unit of time; if the learner is aware of the length of the interval, he or she will respond only at the beginning of the interval. It is interesting that many schools give examinations at fixed intervals, such as the middle and end of the semester; per- haps that is why many students study only just before an exam. The variable-interval schedule involves reinforcing the first cor- rect response after a variable period. In this case, the individual cannot predict when reinforcement will occur, so he or she re- sponds at a regular rate. Grading a course based on several surprise or “pop” quizzes uses this schedule.
The fixed-ratio schedule provides a re- inforcement following a specified number of correct, nonreinforced responses. Paying a worker on a piece rate, such as 5 dollars for every three items produced, uses this pattern. If the reward is sufficient, the rate of behavior may be high. Finally, the vari- able-ratio schedule provides reinforcement after several non-rewarded responses, with the number of responses between rein- forcements varying. This schedule typically produces the highest and most stable rates of response. An excellent illustration is the gambler, who will insert quarters in a slot machine for hours, receiving only occa- sional, random payoffs.
Punishment. By definition, punishment is the presentation of a painful or discom- forting stimulus or the removal of a posi- tive stimulus (by a socializing agent) that decreases the probability that the preceding behavior (by the learner) will occur. Pun- ishment is one of the major child-rearing practices used by parents. The Gallup or- ganization interviewed a nationally repre- sentative sample of parents in 1995 (Straus & Stewart, 1999; Straus & Field, 2003). The
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84 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
percentage of parents who reported using corporal punishment—pinching, slapping, spanking, or hitting—during the preceding year varied by the age of the child. The use of corporal punishment was reported by 94 percent of the parents of 3- and 4-year-olds; the prevalence declined steadily from age 5 to age 17. The use of psychological tech- niques—shouting, name-calling, threaten- ing—was reported by more than 85 percent of parents of children of all ages. The results are displayed in Figure 3.2.
Punishment is obviously widely used in the United States, suggesting that our culture is tolerant of or encourages its use. As discussed earlier, corporal pun- ishment was more commonly reported by African-American and low-income parents (Straus & Stewart, 1999), while the use of psychological techniques did not vary by race or other sociodemographic character- istics (Straus & Field, 2003).
So, does punishment work? Research in- dicates that it is effective in some circum- stances but not in others. One aspect is timing. Punishment is most effective when it occurs in close proximity to the behavior. A verbal reprimand delivered as the child touched the toy was more effective than a prior warning or a reprimand following the action (Aronfreed & Reber, 1965). Also, the effectiveness may be limited to the situation in which it is given. Because punishment is usually administered by a particular person, it may be effective only when that person is present. This probably accounts for the fact that when their parents are absent, children may engage in activities that their parents earlier had punished (Parke, 1969, 1970).
Another factor in the effectiveness of
punishments is whether they are accompa- nied by a reason (Parke, 1969). Providing a reason allows the child to generalize the pro- hibition to a class of acts and situations. Yell- ing “No!” as a child reaches out to touch the stove may suppress that behavior. Telling
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100% 95% 90% 85% 80% 75% 70% 65% 60% 55% 50% 45% 40% 35% 30% 25% 20% 15% 10% 5% 0%
0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 1011121314151617
Observed Psychological Observed Physical Moving Average Physical
FIgure 3.2 Percentage of Parents Who use Physical Punishment and Psychological Punishment
The Gallup Organization interviewed a representative sample of 991 parents in 1995. Each parent was asked whether and how often he or she used physical pun- ishment (spanked the bottom; slapped hand, arm, or leg; pinched; shook; hit on the bottom with an object; or slapped head, face, or ears) and psychological pun- ishment (shouted, yelled, or screamed; threatened to hit or spank; swore or cursed; threatened to kick out of the house; or called names, such as dumb or lazy). Most parents reported using both types. The use of physical punishment peaked with 4-year-old children and then declined steadily through age 17. By contrast, the use of psychological punishment was reported to be as com- mon with 17-year-olds as with 1-year-olds (90 percent).
Source: Straus and Stewart, 1999; Straus and Field, 2003.
the child not to touch it because it is “hot” enables him or her to learn to avoid hot ob- jects as a group. Finally, consistency between the reprimands given by parents and their own behavior makes punishment more ef- fective than if parents do not practice what they preach (Mischel & Liebert, 1966).
What about the long-term consequences of punishment? Clearly, parents and care-
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givers need to control children’s behavior. At the same time, they need to recognize that corporal punishment may be associ- ated with subsequent antisocial behavior by children. Punishment should focus on the behavior and not the child, and should be balanced by praise and rewards.
Self-Reinforcement and Self-Efficacy.
Children learn hundreds, if not thousands, of behaviors through instrumental learning. The performance of some of these behaviors will remain extrinsically motivated—that is, they are dependent on whether someone else will reward appropriate behaviors or punish inappropriate ones. However, the performance of other activities becomes in- trinsically motivated—that is, performed in order to achieve an internal state that the individual finds rewarding (Deci, 1975). Re- search has demonstrated that external re- wards do not always improve performance. Providing a reward for a behavior that is in- trinsically motivated, such as drawing, may actually reduce the frequency or quality of the activity (Lepper, Greene, & Nisbett, 1973).
Closely related to the concept of intrin- sic motivation is self-reinforcement. As children are socialized, they learn not only specific behaviors but also performance standards. Children learn not only to write but to write neatly. These standards be- come part of the self; having learned them, the child uses them to judge his or her own behavior and thus becomes capable of self- reinforcement (Bandura, 1982b). The child who has drawn a house and comes running up to her father with a big smile, saying, “Look what I drew,” has already judged the drawing as a good one. If her father agrees, her standards and self-evaluation are con- firmed.
Successful experiences with an activ- ity over time create a sense of competence at the activity, or self-efficacy (Bandura,
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1982b). This, in turn, makes the individ- ual more likely to seek opportunities to engage in that behavior. The greater one’s sense of self-efficacy, the more effort one will expend at a task and the greater one’s persistence in the face of difficulty. For in- stance, a young girl who perceives herself as a good basketball player is more likely to try out for a team. Conversely, experiences of failure to perform a task properly, or of the failure of the performance to produce the expected results, create the perception that one is not efficacious. Perceived lack of efficacy is likely to lead to avoidance of the task. A boy who perceives himself as poor at spelling will probably not enter the school spelling bee.
Observational Learning
Children love to play dress-up. Girls put on skirts, step into high-heeled shoes, and totter around the room; boys put on sport coats and drape ties around their necks. Through observing adults, children have learned the patterns of appropriate dress in their society. Similarly, children often learn interactive rituals, such as shaking hands or waving goodbye, by watching others per- form the behavior and then doing it on their own.
Observational learning, or modeling, refers to the acquisition of behavior based on the observation of another person’s behavior and of its consequences for that person (Shaw & Costanzo, 1982). Many be- haviors and skills are learned this way. By watching another person (the model) per- form skilled actions, a child can increase his or her own skills. The major advantage of modeling is its greater efficiency compared with trial-and-error learning.
Does observational learning lead directly to the performance of the learned behav- ior? No; research has shown that there is a difference between learning a behavior and
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86 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
Observational learning or imitation is an important process through which children learn appropriate behaviors. © Images_Bazaar/iStock
performing it. People can learn how to per- form a behavior by observing another per- son, but they may not perform the behavior until the appropriate opportunity arises. Considerable time may elapse before the observer is in the presence of the eliciting stimulus. A father in the habit of mutter- ing “damn” when he spills something may, much to his chagrin, hear his 3-year-old daughter say “damn” the first time she spills milk. Children may learn through observa- tion many associations between situational characteristics and adult behavior, but they may not perform these behaviors until they occupy adult roles and find themselves in such situations.
Even if the appropriate stimulus occurs, people may not perform behaviors learned through observation. An important influ- ence is the consequences experienced by the model following the model’s perfor- mance of the behavior. For instance, in one study (Bandura, 1965), nursery school children watched a film in which an adult model punched, kicked, and threw balls at a large, inflated rubber Bobo doll. Three versions of the film were shown to three groups of children. In the first, the model was rewarded for his acts: A second adult appeared and gave the model soft drinks and candy. In the second version, the model was punished: The other adult spanked the
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model with a magazine. In the third version, there were no rewards or punishments. Later, each child was left alone with vari- ous toys, including a Bobo doll. The child’s behavior was observed through a one-way mirror. Children who had observed the model who was punished were much less likely to punch and kick the doll than the other children.
Did these other children not learn the aggressive behaviors, or did they learn them by observation but not perform them? To answer this question, the experimenter re- turned to the room and offered a reward for each act of the model that the child could reproduce. Following this offer, the chil- dren in all three groups were equally able to reproduce the acts performed by the model. Thus, a child is less likely to perform an act learned by observation if the model experi- enced negative consequences.
Whether children learn from observing a model also depends on the characteris- tics of the model. Children are more likely to imitate high-status and nurturant mod- els than models who are low in status and nurturance (Bandura, 1969). Preschool children given dolls representing peers, older children, and adults consistently chose adult dolls as people they would go to for help and older children as people they would go to for teaching (Lewis & Brooks- Gunn, 1979). Children also are more likely to model themselves after nurturant per- sons than after cold and impersonal ones. Thus, socialization is much more likely to be effective when the child has a nurturant, loving primary caregiver.
Often, we feel a sense of moral obligation to perform some behavior. At other times, we experience a strong internal feeling that a particular behavior is wrong. Usually, we experience guilt if these moral prescriptions or prohibitions are violated.
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Internalization is the process by which initially external behavioral standards (for example, those held by parents) become in- ternal and subsequently guide the person’s behavior. An action is based on internal- ized standards when the person engages in it without considering possible rewards or punishments. Various explanations have been offered of the process by which inter- nalization occurs, but all of them agree that children are most likely to internalize the standards held by more powerful or nurtur- ant adult caregivers.
Internalization is an important social- izing process. It results in the exercise of self-control. People conform to internal standards even when there is no surveil- lance of their behavior by others and, there- fore, no rewards for their conformity. Peo- ple who are widely admired for taking po- litical or religious actions that are unpopu- lar—for standing up for their beliefs—often do so because those beliefs are internalized.
outcoMeS of SocIalIzatIon
Persons being socialized acquire new skills, knowledge, and behavior. In this section, we discuss some specific outcomes of the socialization process, including gender role, linguistic and cognitive competence, moral development, and orientation toward work.
Gender Role
“Congratulations, you have a girl!” Such a pronouncement by a birth attendant may be the single most important event in a new person’s life. The gender assigned to the infant—male or female—has a major influence on the socialization and life expe- riences of that child.
Every society has differential expecta- tions regarding the characteristics and be- havior of men and women. In our society, men traditionally have been expected to be
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competent—competitive, logical, able to make decisions easily, ambitious. Women have been expected to be high in warmth and expressiveness—gentle, sensitive, tact- ful (Broverman, Vogel, Broverman, Clark- son, & Rosenkrantz, 1972). Parents employ these or other expectations as guidelines in socializing their children, and differen- tial treatment begins at birth. Male infants are handled more vigorously and roughly, whereas female infants are given more cuddling (Lamb, 1979). Boys and girls are dressed differently from infancy and often are given different kinds of toys to play with.
Moreover, mothers and fathers differ in
the way they interact with infants. Mothers engage in behavior oriented toward ful- filling the child’s physical and emotional needs (Baumrind, 1980), whereas fathers engage the child in rough-and-tumble, physically stimulating activity (Walters & Walters, 1980). Fathers also engage sons in more rough-and-tumble play than daughters. These differences are found in European-American, African-American, and Hispanic families (Parke, 1996). Thus, almost from birth, infants are exposed to models of masculine and feminine behav- ior. Mothers and fathers differ in their talk to young children; mothers talk more than fathers, and mothers’ talk is socioemotional (supportive or negative), whereas fathers’ talk is instrumental (Leaper, Anderson, & Sanders, 1998).
By age 2, the child’s gender identity—his or her conception of self as male or female— is firmly established (Money & Ehrhardt, 1972). Boys and girls show distinct prefer- ences for different types of play materials and toys by this age. Between the ages of 2 and 3, differences in aggressiveness become evident, with boys displaying more physical and verbal aggression than girls (Hyde & Else-Quest, 2012). This difference is stable across ages 3, 4, and 5 (Lussier, Corrado & Tzoumakis, 2012). In data from nine coun- tries, boys ages 7 to 10 were found to engage
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88 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
in more physical and relational aggression than girls (Lansford et al., 2012). By age 4, the games typically played by boys and girls differ; groups of girls play house, enacting familial roles, whereas groups of boys play space rangers. In middle childhood, gen- der-segregated play appears to be almost universal (Edwards, Knoche, & Kumru, 2001).
We noted early in this chapter the im- portance of “nature” in understanding chil- dren’s development. Research involving almost 4,000 twin and non-twin sibling pairs (Iervolino, Hines, Golombok, Rust, & Plomin, 2005) identified both genetic and shared environmental (family) influences on sex-typed behavior (play activities) for both boys and girls. In related research, Hines and colleagues (2002) measured women’s blood levels of testosterone during pregnancy, and gender-role behaviors when the children were 31⁄2 years old. There was a positive relationship between testosterone and male-typed behavior among girls, but not among boys.
Parents are an important influence on
the learning of gender role—the behavioral expectations associated with one’s gender. Children learn gender-appropriate behav- iors by observing their parents’ interaction. Children also learn by interacting with par- ents, who reward behavior consistent with their expectations and punish behavior inconsistent with them. The child’s earli- est experiences relating to members of the other gender occur in interaction with the opposite-gender parent. A woman may be more likely to develop the ability to have warm, psychologically intimate relation- ships with men if her relationship with her father was of this type (Appleton, 1981).
Obviously, boys are not all alike in our
society, and neither are girls. The specific
behaviors and characteristics that the child is taught depend partly on the gender role expectations held by the parents. These in
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turn depend on the network of extended family—grandparents, aunts and uncles, and other relatives—and friends of the fam- ily. The expectations held by these people are influenced by the institutions to which they belong, such as churches and work or- ganizations (Stryker & Serpe, 1982). With regard to religion, research suggests that the differences among denominations in socialization techniques and in outcomes such as gender role attitudes have declined in recent decades (Alwin, 1986). The data suggest that church attendance is more in- fluential than the denomination to which one belongs.
Gender role definitions vary by culture.
Some research suggests that Latino fam- ilies teach more traditional expectations for behavior of boys and girls compared to other groups in U.S. society. These fami- lies also encourage a strong sense of fam- ily obligation, which has benefits but may tie offspring physically to the family, limit- ing educational and occupational mobility (Crosnoe & Cavanagh, 2010). Other re- search finds that as education and female labor-force participation increase, families have more egalitarian views of behavior and decision making (Ginorio, Gutierrez, Cauce, & Acosta, 1995). It is important to remem- ber that “Latino” encompasses people from several different cultural backgrounds, in- cluding Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, and Cuban. Asian cultures are patriarchal, and parents may socialize female children to restrictive norms designed to serve the family rather than express their individu- ality (Root, 1995). Again, “Asian” includes persons of Chinese, Taiwanese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese descent; these cultures may differ in the prevailing gender role definitions.
Schools also teach gender roles. Teach- ers may reward appropriate gender role be- havior. A more subtle influence on social- ization is the content of the stories that are
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Children and adolescents learn gender-role expectations and behavior through interaction with adults. Meeting their hero, basketball player Dwyane Wade, may have a lifelong impact on these boys/girls/ youth. © AP Photo/J. Pat Carter
read and told in preschool and first-grade
classes. Many of these stories portray men
and women as different. In the past, men
were depicted as rulers, adventurers, and explorers; women were wives (Weitzman, Eifler, Hokada, & Ross, 1972). A study of award-winning books for children pub- lished from 1995 to 1999 found men and women equally represented as main char- acters, but men played a greater variety of roles and were seldom shown engag- ing in child care, shopping, or housework (Gooden & Gooden, 2001). An analysis of 200 children’s picture books found that males were title characters twice as often as females, and females were more often portrayed as nurturing, in indoor scenes, and appeared to have no paid employment (Hamilton et al., 2006). A study of illustra- tions in a sample of 56 contemporaneous coloring books found that males were more
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active, and more likely to be portrayed as adults, and as superheroes (Fitzpatrick & McPherson, 2010).
A major influence on gender role social- ization is the mass media. Media provide images of masculinity and femininity that can readily be imitated. Researchers ana- lyzing the contents of television programs, television advertising, feature films, and other media report that portrayals of men and women and girls and boys reinforce traditional definitions of gender roles. A content analysis of 175 episodes of 41 ani- mated TV series found that male characters were portrayed as independent, athletic, ambitious, and aggressive, whereas female characters were shown as dependent, emo- tional, domestic, and romantic (Thomp- son & Zerbinos, 1995). A content analysis of 160 hours of children’s cartoons found that superheroes are defined in masculine
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90 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
terms (Baker & Raney, 2007). A study of the fiction in Seventeen and Teen, the two highest-selling magazines for teenage girls, found that the stories reinforced traditional messages (Peirce, 1993). Half of the con- flicts were about relationships, and half the female characters relied on someone else to solve their problems. Adult men in the stories were doctors, lawyers, and bankers; adult women were nurses, clerical workers, and secretaries. Perhaps the most stereo- typed portrayals are found in music videos. An analysis of 40 music videos found that men engaged in more dominant, aggressive behavior, whereas women engaged in sub- servient behavior; women were frequently the object of explicit, implicit, and aggres- sive sexual advances (Sommers-Flanagan, Sommers-Flanagan, & Davis, 1993).
An analysis of music videos broadcast in 2004 on MTV and MTV2 found that gender displays reinforced stereotypes of women as sex objects, and males as aggressive and fe- males as submissive (Wallis, 2010). Another study of 120 videos revealed that videos of African-American musical genres (rap, hip- hop) or featuring black performers were much more likely to portray sexual content and women in provocative dress, compared to videos of white musical genres (Turner, 2011).
Research is now focusing on the impact of these portrayals on young media con- sumers. Researchers asked 190 first- and second-graders to name their three favorite television programs. They analyzed por- trayals of gender in the six programs named most often. Male characters were more likely to answer questions, boss others, and achieve goals. Boys who preferred stereo- typic male characters were more likely to value hard work. Boys and girls who pre- ferred female/male counterstereotypic con- tent were more likely to report attraction to female/male characters (Aubrey & Har- rison, 2004). A study of African-American
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high school students surveyed their media usage and gender role attitudes. Later, stu- dents viewed either four music videos with stereotypic portrayals of gender or four non- stereotypic ones. More frequent viewing of music videos was associated with more tra- ditional gender role attitudes. Youth who viewed stereotypic videos expressed more traditional views of gender and sexual re- lationships (Ward, Hansbrough, & Walker, 2005). Clearly, gender role portrayals are related to gender role attitudes of children and adolescents.
During childhood and adolescence, youth are explicitly taught and rewarded for behavior consistent with gender role norms. They also observe models behaving in a va- riety of ways. Children do not simply mimic their parents, siblings, or MTV performers. As the interpretive perspective suggests, children learn gender role behaviors and then re-create them, adapting them to their individual social contexts. Williams (2002) refers to this process as trying on gender— experimenting, resisting, and rehearsing ways to be female or male.
Linguistic and Cognitive Competence
Another important outcome of socializa-
tion is the ability to interact effectively with others. We discuss two specific competen- cies: language and the ability to cognitively represent the world.
Language. Using language to communicate with others is a prerequisite for full partic- ipation in social groups (Shibutani, 1961). The child’s acquisition of speech reflects both the development of the necessary per- ceptual and motor skills and the impact of social learning (Bates, O’Connell, & Shore, 1987).
The three main components of language are the sound system (phonology), the words and their associated meanings (lexicon), and
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the rules for combining words into mean- ingful utterances (grammar). Young chil- dren appear to acquire these in sequence, first mastering meaningful sounds, then learning words, and finally learning sen- tences. In reality, acquiring speech is a pro- cess that involves all three at the same time and continues throughout childhood.
Language acquisition in the first 3 years
passes through four stages (Bates et al., 1987). The pre-speech stage lasts for about 10 months and involves speech perception, speech production, and early intentional communication. In the first few weeks of life, infants can perceive all of the speech sounds. They begin producing sounds at 2 to 3 months, and begin producing sounds specific to their parents’ language at 4 to 7 months. Speech production involves imita- tion of the sounds they hear. With regard to intentional communication, observational data indicate that vocal exchanges involving 4-month-old infants and their mothers are patterned (Stevenson, Ver Hoeve, Roach, & Leavitt, 1986). Vocalization by either infant or mother was followed by silence, allowing the other to respond. Vocalization by one was likely to be followed by vocalization by the other, a pattern like that found in adult conversation.
The first intentional use of gestures oc- curs at about 9 months. At this age, infants orient visually to adults rather than to de- sired objects, such as a cookie. Further- more, if an initial gesture is not followed by the adult engaging in the desired behavior, the infant will repeat the gesture or try a dif- ferent gesture.
The second or first word stage occurs at
10 to 14 months and involves the infant’s recognition that things have names. The first words produced are usually nouns that name or request specific objects (March- man, 1991). Obviously, this ability to use names reflects cognitive as well as linguistic development.
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At about 18 months, there is a vocabu- lary burst, with a doubling in a short time of the number of words that are correctly used. The suddenness of this increase sug- gests that it reflects the maturation of some cognitive abilities. This, in turn, is followed by an increase in the complexity of vocaliza- tions, leading to the first sentence stage at 18 to 22 months. Examples of such sentences include “See truck, Mommy” and “There go one.” Such speech is telegraphic—that is, the number of words is greatly reduced relative to adult speech (Brown & Fraser, 1963). At the same time, such utterances are clearly more precise than the single-word utterances of the 1-year-old child.
The fourth stage, grammaticization, oc- curs at 24 to 30 months. The child’s use of language now reflects the fundamentals of grammar. Children at this age frequently overgeneralize, applying rules indiscrim- inately. For example, they will add an ap- propriate ending to a novel word although it is incorrect: “He runned.” Such usage indicates that the child understands that there are rules. At about the same age, a child puts series of acts in the conventional sequence—for example, undressing a doll, bathing it, drying it, and dressing it. Perhaps both activities reflect the maturation of an underlying ability to order arbitrary units.
An important process in learning to make grammatically correct sentences is speech expansion. That is, adults often re- spond to children’s speech by repeating it in expanded form. In response to “Eve lunch,” the mother might say “Eve is eating lunch.” One study showed that mothers expanded 30 percent of the utterances of their 2-year- old children (Brown, 1964). Adults probably expand on the child’s speech to determine the child’s specific meaning. Speech expan- sion contributes to language acquisition by providing children with a model of how to convey more effectively the meanings they intend.
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The next stage of language development is highlighted by the occurrence of private speech, in which children talk to them- selves, often for extended periods. Private speech begins at about age 3, increases in frequency until age 5, and disappears by about age 7. Such private talk serves three functions. First, it contributes to the child’s developing sense of self. Private speech is addressed to the self as object, and it often includes the application of meanings to the self, such as “I’m a girl.” Second, private speech helps the child develop an aware- ness of the environment. It often consists of naming aspects of the physical and so- cial environment. The repeated use of these names solidifies the child’s understanding of the environment. Children also often en- gage in appropriate actions as they speak, reflecting their developing awareness of the social meanings of objects and persons. Thus, a child may label a doll a “baby” and dress it and feed it. Third, children engage in more private speech during novel or open-ended tasks than during tasks where the teacher or parent tells them what to do (Kyjonkova & Lacinova, 2010), or self- selected activity (Winsler, Carlton & Barry, 2000), suggesting that its use facilitates self-regulation of behavior by the child.
Gradually, the child begins to engage in dialogues, either with others or with the self. These conversations reflect the ability to adopt a second perspective. Thus, by age 6, when one child wants a toy that another child is using, the first child frequently of- fers to trade. She knows that the second child will be upset if she merely takes the toy. This movement away from a self-cen- tered view also may reflect maturational changes. Dialogue requires that the child’s own speech meshes with that of another.
Language is important in the socializa- tion of gender. A meta-analysis of obser- vational studies of parents’ use of language in interaction with their children identified
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several differences between mothers and
fathers in types of communication. For ex- ample, mothers were more supportive and less directive compared to fathers. More- over, mothers and fathers differed in the way they talked to sons and to daughters (Leaper, Anderson, & Sanders, 1998). Thus children are socialized to gender differences in language use as they observe and interact with their parents/caregivers.
Language socialization involves much more than learning to talk. It also involves learning to think, how to behave, and how to feel and express feelings (Garrett & Baquedano-Lopez, 2002). As the interpre- tive perspective suggests, language learning occurs in the routine, everyday interaction of children and adults. It is responsive to and reflects local values, patterns of social organization, and (sub)cultural features.
Cognitive Competence. Children must de- velop the ability to represent in their own minds the features of the world around them. This capacity to represent reality mentally is closely related to the develop- ment of language.
The child’s basic tasks are to learn the regularities of the physical and social en- vironment and to store past experience in a form that can be used in current sit- uations. In a complex society, there are so many physical objects, animals, and peo- ple that it is not possible for a child (or an adult) to remember each as a distinct entity. Things must be categorized into inclusive groupings, such as dogs, houses, or girls. A category of objects and the cognitions that the individual has about members of that category (for example, “dog”) makes up a schema. Collectively, our schemas allow us to make sense of the world around us.
Young children must learn schemas (see
Chap. 1). Learning language is an essen- tial part of the process, because language provides the names around which sche-
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mas can develop. It is noteworthy that the first words that children produce are usu- ally nouns that name objects in the child’s environment. At first, the child uses a few very general schemas. Some children learn the word dog at 12 to 14 months and then apply it to all animals—to dogs, cats, birds, and cows. Only with maturation and expe- rience does the child develop the abstract schema “animals” and learn to discriminate between dogs and cats.
Researchers can study the ability to use schemas by asking children to sort objects, pictures, or words into groups. Young chil- dren (aged 6 to 8) rely on visual features, such as color or word length, and sort ob- jects into numerous categories. Older chil- dren (aged 10 to 12) increasingly use func- tional or superordinate categories, such as foods, and sort objects into fewer groups (Olver, 1961; Rigney, 1962). With age, chil- dren become increasingly adept at classi- fying diverse objects and treating them as equivalent.
These skills are very important in so- cial interaction. Only by having the ability to group objects, persons, and situations can one determine how to behave toward them. Person schemas and their associ- ated meanings are especially important to smooth interaction. Even very young chil- dren differentiate people by age (Lewis & Brooks-Gunn, 1979). By about 2 years of age, children correctly differentiate babies and adults when shown photographs. By about 5, children employ four categories: little children, big children, parents (aged 13 to 40), and grandparents (aged 40-plus).
As children learn to group objects into meaningful schemas, they learn not only the categories but also how others feel about such categories. Children learn not only that Catholics are people who believe in the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but also whether their parents like or dis- like Catholics. Thus, children acquire posi-
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tive and negative attitudes toward the wide range of social objects they come to recog- nize. The particular schemas and evalua- tions that children learn are influenced by the social class, religious, ethnic, and other subcultural groupings to which those who socialize them belong.
Moral Development
In this section, we discuss moral develop-
ment in children and adults. Specifically, we
focus on the acquisition of knowledge of so- cial rules and on the process through which children become capable of making moral judgments.
Knowledge of Social Rules. To interact ef- fectively with others, people must learn the social rules that govern interaction and in general adhere to them. Beliefs about which behaviors are acceptable and which are unacceptable for specific persons in spe- cific situations are termed norms. Without norms, coordinated activity would be very difficult, and we would find it hard or im- possible to achieve our goals. Therefore, each group, organization, and society de- velops rules governing behavior.
Early in life, an American child learns to say “Please,” a French child “S’il vous plait,” and a Serbian child “Molim te.” In every case, the child is learning the value of conforming to arbitrary norms governing requests. Learning language trains the child to conform to linguistic norms and serves as a model for the learning of other norms. Gradually, through instrumental and observational learning, the child learns the generality of the relationship between conformity to norms and the ability to interact smoothly with others and achieve one’s own goals.
What influences which norms children
will learn? The general culture is one
influence. All American children learn to
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94 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
cover parts of the body with clothing in public. The position of the family within the society is another influence. Parental expectations reflect social class, religion, and ethnicity. Thus, the norms that children are taught vary from one family to another. Interestingly, parents often hold norms that they apply distinctively to their own children. Mothers and fathers expect certain behaviors of their own sons or daughters but may have different expectations for other people’s children (Elkin & Handel, 1989). For instance, they may expect their own children to be more polite than other children in interaction with adults. Parental expectations are not constant over time; they change as the child grows older. Parents expect greater politeness from a 10-year-old than from a 5-year-old. Finally, parents adjust their expectations to the particular child. They consider the child’s level of ability and experiences relative to other children; they expect better performance in school from a child who has done well in the past than from one who has had problems in school. In all of these ways, each child is being socialized to a somewhat different set of norms. The outcome is a young person who is both similar to most others from the same social background and unique in certain ways.
When children begin to engage in cooperative play at about 4 years of age, they begin to experience normative pressure from peers. The expectations of age-mates differ in two important ways from those of parents. First, children bring different norms from their separate families and, therefore, introduce new expectations. Thus, through their peers, children first become aware there are other ways of behaving. In some cases, peers’ expectations conflict with those of parents. For example, many parents do not allow their children to play with toy guns, knives, or swords. Through
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involvement with their peers, children may become aware that other children routinely play with such toys. As a result, some children will experience normative conflict and discover the need to develop strategies for resolving such conflicts.
A second way that peer norms differ
from parental norms is that the former
reflect a child’s perspective (Elkin &
Handel, 1989). Many parental expectations are oriented toward socializing the child for adult roles. Children react to each other as children and are not concerned with long- term outcomes. Thus, peers encourage impulsive, spontaneous behavior rather than behavior directed toward long-term goals. Peer norms emphasize participation in group activities, whereas parental norms may emphasize homework and other educational activities that may contribute to academic achievement.
When children enter school, they are ex- posed to a third major socializing agent— the teacher. In school, children are exposed to universalistic rules—norms that apply equally to all children. The teacher is much less likely than the parents to make allow- ances for the unique characteristics of the individual; children must learn to wait their
At school, children get their first exposure to
universal norms—behavioral expectations that are the same for everyone. Although parents and friends treat the child as an individual, teachers are less likely to do so. © monkeybusinessimages/ iStock
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turn, to control impulsive and spontaneous behavior, and to work without a great deal of supervision and support. In this regard, the school is the first of many settings where the individual is treated primarily as a member of the group rather than as a unique individual. As noted in Box 3.2, chil- dren may engage in resistance in response to the authority structure in a school.
Thus, school is the setting in which children are first exposed to universalis- tic norms and the regular use of symbolic rewards, such as grades. Such settings be- come increasingly common in adolescence and adulthood, in contrast with the individ- ualized character of familial settings.
Moral Judgment. We not only learn the norms of our social groups, we also develop the ability to evaluate behavior in specific situations by applying certain standards. The process through which children be- come capable of making moral judgments is termed moral development. It involves two components: (1) the reasons one ad- heres to social rules and (2) the bases used to evaluate actions by self or others as good or bad.
How do children evaluate acts as good
or bad? One of the first people to study this
question in detail was Piaget, the famous Swiss developmental psychologist. Piaget read a child stories in which the central character performed an act that violated so- cial rules. In one story, for example, a young girl, contrary to rules, was playing with scis- sors and made a hole in her dress. Piaget asked the children to evaluate the behaviors of the characters (that is, to indicate which characters were naughtier) and then to explain their reasons for these judgments. Based on this work, Piaget concluded there were three bases for moral judgments: amount of harm/benefit, actor’s intentions, and the application of agreed-upon rules or norms (Piaget, 1965).
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Kohlberg (1969) extended Piaget’s work by analyzing the reasoning by which people reach moral judgments. He uses stories in- volving conflict between human needs and social norms or laws. Here is an example:
In Europe, a woman was near death from cancer. One drug might save her, a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The druggist was charging $2,000, ten times what the drug cost him to make. The sick woman’s hus- band, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow money, but he could only get to- gether about half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said no. The husband got desperate and broke into the man’s store to steal the drug for his wife (Kohlberg, 1969).
Respondents are then asked, “Should Heinz have done that? Was Heinz right or wrong? What obligations did Heinz and the druggist have? Should Heinz be punished?”
Kohlberg proposes a developmental model with three levels of moral reason- ing, each level involving two stages. This model is summarized in Table 3.3. Kohl- berg argues that the progression from stage 1 to stage 6 is a standard or universal one, and that all children begin at stage 1 and progress through the stages in order. Most adults reason at stages 3 or 4. Few people reach stages 5 or 6. Several studies have shown that such a progression does occur (Kuhn, Langer, Kohlberg, & Haan, 1977). If the progression is universal, children from different cultures should pass through the same stages in the same order. Again, data suggest that they do (White, Bushnell, & Regnemer, 1978). On the basis of such ev- idence, Kohlberg claims that this progres- sion is the natural human pattern of moral development. He also believes that attain- ing higher levels is better or more desirable.
Kohlberg’s model is an impressive at- tempt to specify a universal model of moral
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TABle 3.3 Kohlberg’s Model of Moral Development
a morality of caring. A justice orientation is concerned with adherence to rules and fairness, whereas a caring orientation is concerned with relationships and meeting the needs of others. Gilligan argues that the former is characteristic of men and is the basis of Kohlberg’s model. She believes the latter is more characteristic of women. A meta-analysis of studies testing predictions from the two models indicates that there is a significant but modest tendency for women to base judgments on caring criteria and for men to base judgments on considerations of justice (Jaffee & Hyde, 2000). Several of these experiments suggest that the content of the dilemma has greater influence on the criteria used than does gender; thus, both men and women are flexible in the making of moral judgments (Crandall, Tsang, Gold- man, & Pennington, 1999).
Third, Kohlberg shows little interest
in the influence of social interaction on
moral reasoning. In response to this lim- itation, Haan (1978) has proposed a model of interpersonal morality. Moral decisions and actions often result from negotia- tions between people in which the goal is a “moral balance.” Participants attempt to balance situational characteristics, such as the options available, with their individual interests to arrive at a decision that allows them to preserve their sense of themselves as moral persons. Haan (1978, 1986) pre- sented moral dilemmas to groups of friends and asked them to decide. In some cases, the decisions were more influenced by in- dividual moral principles; in others, by the group interaction.
Recent research on children’s moral judgment finds that evaluations of an ac- tion as “right” or “wrong” are influenced by their attributions of emotion, that is, beliefs about how the transgressor will feel after the action (Malti et al., 2010). In a sample of 5-, 7- and 9-year-olds, older children were more likely to employ moral reasons
PreConvenTIonAl MorAlITY
Moral judgment based on external, physical consequences of acts.
Stage 1: Obedience and punishment orientation. Rules are obeyed in order to avoid punishment, trouble.
Stage 2: Hedonistic orientation. Rules are obeyed in order to obtain rewards for the self.
ConvenTIonAl MorAlITY
Moral judgment based on social consequences of acts.
Stage 3: “Good boy/nice girl” orientation. Rules are obeyed to please others, avoid disapproval.
Stage 4: Authority and social-order-maintaining orientation. Rules are obeyed to show respect for authorities and maintain social order.
PoSTConvenTIonAl MorAlITY
Moral judgment based on universal moral and ethical principles.
Stage 5: Social-contract orientation. Rules are obeyed because they represent the will of the majority, to avoid violation of rights of others.
Stage 6: Universal ethical principles. Rules are obeyed in order to adhere to one’s principles.
Source: Adapted from Kohlberg, 1969, Table 6.2.
development. However, it has limitations. First, like Piaget, Kohlberg locates the de- terminants of moral judgment within the individual. He does not recognize the influ- ence of the situation. Studies of judgments of aggressive behavior (Berkowitz, Mueller, Schnell, & Pudberg, 1986), of driving while intoxicated (Denton & Krebs, 1990), and of decisions about reward allocation (Kur- tines, 1986) have found that both moral stage and type of situation influenced moral judgment.
Second, Kohlberg’s model has been criticized as sexist—not applicable to the processes that women use in moral reason- ing. Gilligan (1982) identifies two concep- tions of morality: a morality of justice and
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in judging transgressions, and to attribute feeling guilty to the transgressor. Other research shows that prosocial moral rea- soning increases from adolescence (ages 15 to 16) to young adulthood (ages 25 to 26) (Eisenberg, Cumberland, Guthrie, Murphy, & Shepard, 2005).
Work Orientations
Work is of central importance in social life. In recognition of this, occupation is a major influence on the distribution of economic and other resources. We identify others by their work; its importance is evidenced by the fact that one of the first questions we ask a new acquaintance is “What do you do?”
Most adults want to work at jobs that provide economic and perhaps other re- wards. Therefore, it is not surprising that a major part of socialization is the learning of orientations toward work. By the age of 2, the child is aware that adults “go work” and asks why. A common reply is “Mommy goes to work to earn money.” A study of 900 elementary school children found that 80 percent of first-graders understood the connection between work and money (Goldstein & Oldham, 1979). The child, in turn, learns that money is needed to obtain food, clothing, and toys. The child of a phy- sician or nurse might be told “Mommy goes to work to help people who are ill.” Thus, from an early age the child is taught the so- cial meaning of work.
Occupations vary tremendously in char-
acter. One dimension on which jobs differ
is closeness of supervision; a self-employed auto mechanic has considerable freedom, whereas an assembly-line worker may be closely supervised. The nature of the work varies: mechanics deal with things, sales- people deal with people, lawyers deal with ideas. Finally, occupations such as lawyer require self-reliance and independent judg- ment, whereas an assembly-line job does
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not. So the meaning of work depends on the type of job the individual has.
Adults in different occupations should have different orientations toward work, and these orientations should influence how they socialize their children. Based on this hypothesis, extensive research has been conducted on the differences between social classes in the values transmitted through socialization (Kohn, 1969). Fathers are given a list of traits, including good manners, success, self-control, obedience, and responsibility, and asked to indicate how much they value each for their chil- dren. Underlying these specific character- istics, a general dimension—“self-direction versus conformity”—is usually found. Data from fathers of 3- to 15-year-old children indicate that the emphasis on self-direc- tion and reliance on internal standards in- creases as social class increases. The rela- tionship of values and social class is found not only in samples of American fathers but also in samples of Japanese and Polish fa- thers (Kohn, Naoi, Schoenbach, Schooler, & Slomczynski, 1990).
These differences in the evaluations of particular traits reflect differences in the conditions of work. In general, mid- dle-class occupations involve the manipu- lation of people or symbols, and the work is not closely supervised. Thus, these oc- cupational roles require people who are self-directing and who can make judgments based on knowledge and internal standards. Working-class occupations are more rou- tinized and more closely supervised. Thus, they require workers with a conformist ori- entation. Kohn argues that fathers value those traits in their children that they asso- ciate with success in their occupation.
Do the differences in the value parents place on self-direction influence the kinds of activities in which they encourage their chil- dren to participate? A study of 460 adoles- cents and their mothers (Morgan, Alwin, &
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Griffin, 1979) examined how maternal em- phasis on self-direction affected the young person’s grades in school, choice of curric- ulum, and participation in extracurricular activities. The researchers reasoned that parents who valued self-direction would en- courage their children to take college-prepa- ratory courses, because a college education is a prerequisite to jobs that provide high levels of autonomy. Similarly, they expected mothers who valued self-direction to en- courage extracurricular activities, because such activities provide opportunities to de- velop interpersonal skills. The researchers did not expect differences in grades. The re- sults confirmed all three predictions. Thus, parents who value particular traits in their children do encourage activities that they believe are likely to produce those traits. We met Kimberly in the opening essay; her mother started her in piano lessons in fourth grade because she valued music, and that gave her the skills required when the band director needed a percussionist.
By age 16, many adolescents have expec- tations about jobs they will hold as adults. A longitudinal study in the United Kingdom found that these expectations at 16 were influenced by both parents and teachers; these expectations, in conjunction with the level of education completed, were associ- ated with adult occupational attainment at ages 23, 33, and 42 (Brown, Sessions, & Taylor, 2004). Thus, adolescents’ expecta- tions provide a basis for educational and career choices.
Occupational choices are associated with gender and sexual orientation in the United States, according to data from 9,000 men and women ages 18 to 56. Heterosexual males were significantly more likely to pre- fer such jobs as athlete, auto mechanic, elec- trician, high school coach, and police officer. Gay men’s preferences were more likely to include actor, artist, beautician, nurse, and novelist. Heterosexual females were more
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likely to prefer accountant, beautician, and CEO (Ellis & Ratnasingam, 2006).
the lIfe courSe
Socialization continues throughout one’s life. Maturation and social learning, parents, peers and media, and social structural posi- ton continue to influence development as a social actor. In adulthood, prior experience and the cultural capital (education, wealth, and status) derived from it become impor- tant, as do historical events. A viewpoint that integrates all of these is the life-course perspective. First, an introduction.
“I still can’t get over Liz,” said Megan. “I sat next to her in almost every class for 3 years, and still, I hardly recognized her. Put on some weight since high school, and dyed her hair. But mostly it was the defeated look on her face. When she and Hank announced they were getting married, they were the happiest couple ever. But that lasted long enough for a baby. Then there were years of under- paid jobs. She works part-time in sport- ing goods at Sears now. Had to take that job when her real estate work collapsed in the recession.”
Jim had stopped listening. How could he get excited about Megan’s Lin- coln High School reunion and people he’d never met? But Megan’s mind kept racing. A lot had happened in 25 years.
John—Still larger than life. Football coach at the old school, and assistant principal too. Must be a fantastic model for the tough kids he works with. That scholarship to Indiana was the break he needed.
José—Hard to believe he’s in a mental hospital! He started okay as an engineer.
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Severely burned in a helicopter crash, and then hooked on painkillers. Just fell apart. And we voted him Most Likely to Succeed.
Precious—Thinking about a career in politics. She didn’t start college until her last kid entered school. Now she’s an urban planner in the mayor’s office. Couldn’t stop saying how she feels like a totally new person.
Tom—Head nurse at Westside Hospi- tal’s emergency ward. Quite a surprise. Last I heard, he was a car salesman. Started his nursing career at 28. Got the idea while lying in the hospital for three months after a car accident.
Maria—Right on that one, voting her
Most Ambitious. Finished Yale Law, clerked for the New York Supreme Court, and just promoted to senior partner with Kennedy, Sanchez and Or- tega. Raised two kids at the same time. Having a husband who writes nov- els at home made life easier. Says she was lucky things were opening up for women just when she came along.
Megan’s reminiscences show how differ- ent lives can be—and how unpredictable. When we think about people like Liz or José or Tom, change seems to be the rule. There is change throughout life for all of us. But there is continuity too. Maria’s string of accomplishments is based on her continu- ing ambition, hard work, and competence. John is back at Lincoln High—once a foot- ball hero, now the football coach. Even José had started on the predicted path to success before his tragic helicopter crash.
As adults, each of us will experience a life characterized both by continuity and by change. This section examines the life course—the individual’s progression
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through a series of age-linked social roles embedded in social institutions (Elder & O’Rand, 1995), and the important influ- ences that shape the life course that one experiences. Our examination of the life course is organized around three broad questions:
1. What are the major components of the life course?
2. What are the major influences on progression through the life course? That is, what causes people’s careers to follow the paths they do?
3. In what ways do historical trends and events modify the typical life-course pattern?
Components of the Life Course
Lives are too complex to study in all their aspects. Consequently, we will focus on the three main components of the life course: (1) careers, (2) identity and self-esteem, and (3) stress and satisfaction. By examining these components, we can trace the conti- nuities and changes that occur in what we do through the life course.
Careers. A career is a sequence of roles— each with its own set of activities—that a person enacts during his or her lifetime. Our most important careers are in three major social domains: family and friends, education, and work. The idea of a career comes from the work world, where it refers to the sequence of jobs held. Liz’s work ca- reer, for example, consisted of a sequence of jobs as waitress, checkout clerk, clothing sales, real estate agent, and sporting-goods sales.
The careers of one person differ from
those of another in three ways—in the roles that make up the careers, the order in which the roles are performed, and the timing and duration of role-related activities. For exam-
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ple, one woman’s family career may consist of roles as infant, child, adolescent, spouse, parent, grandparent, and widow. Another woman’s family career may include roles as stepsister and divorcée but exclude the parent role. A man’s career might include the roles of infant, child, adolescent, part- ner, and uncle. The order of roles also may vary. “Parent” before “spouse” has very dif- ferent consequences from “spouse” before “parent.” Furthermore, the timing of career events is important. Having a first child at 36 has different life consequences than hav- ing a first child at 18. Research indicates that marrying before age 23 is strongly asso- ciated with returning to school as an adult (Hostetler, Sweet, & Moen, 2007). Finally, the duration of enacting a role may vary. For example, some couples end their mar- riages before the wedding champagne has gone flat, whereas others go on to celebrate their golden wedding anniversary.
Societies provide structured career paths that shape the options available to individu- als. The cultural norms, social expectations, and laws that organize life in a society make various career options more or less attrac- tive, accessible, and necessary. In the United States, for example, educational careers are socially structured so that virtually everyone attends kindergarten, elementary school, and at least a few years of high school. Thereafter, educational options are more diverse—night school, technical and voca- tional school, apprenticeship, community college, university, and so on. But individual choice among these options is also socially constrained. The norms and expectations of our families and peer groups strongly influ- ence our educational careers; so do the eco- nomic resources available to us.
Events in the family affect the child’s/ad- olescent’s educational career, via linkages between adults and child(ren). Changes in family structure (exit or entry of mother/ stepmother or father/stepfather) is a
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Some parents are able to blend work roles and family roles by working at home. As further advances occur in telecommunications, more women and men may choose this option. However, some major companies have barred employees from working off-site. © Fertnig/iStock
stressor that affects the child’s attachment
to school and GPA (Heard, 2007). The tim- ing of the event matters; changes occurring at age 6 or younger have greater impact than changes from age 7 to adolescence. Dura- tion also matters; the number of years spent in a mother-stepfather or single-parent (mother or father) home is negatively re- lated to GPA in grades 7 through 11.
A person’s total life course consists of intertwined careers in the worlds of work, family, and education (Elder, 1975). The shape of the life course derives from the contents of these careers, from the way they mesh with one another, and from their in- terweaving with those of family members. Sally’s classmates, Maria and Precious, en- acted similar career roles: Both finished col- lege, held full-time jobs, married, and raised
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children. Yet the courses of their lives were very different. Maria juggled these roles simultaneously, helped by a husband who was able to work at home. Precious waited until her children were attending school before continuing her education and then adding an occupational role. The different content, order, timing, and duration of in- tertwining careers make each person’s life course unique.
Why and when do people move? A rarely studied phenomenon is the housing or residential career. A person may move upward—into a larger, more expensive, or single-family residence—or downward— into a smaller, lower-quality, or multi- family dwelling. This residential career is interwoven with educational, family, and occupational careers. In fact, a move is usu- ally associated with events in these other realms. With regard to family careers, en- tering cohabitation or marriage often in- volves a move up for one or both partners; a separation or divorce often involves moves down. Comparing married and cohabiting couples, couples who divorced experienced a larger drop in housing quality (Feijten & van Ham, 2010).
Identities and Self-Esteem. As we engage in career roles, we observe our own perfor- mances and other people’s reactions to us. Using these observations, we construct role identities—conceptions of the self in spe- cific roles. The role identities available to us depend on the career paths we are fol- lowing. When Liz’s work in real estate col- lapsed, she got a job in sales at Sears; she was qualified to sell sporting goods because of her prior work experience.
As we will see in Chapter 4, identities are negotiated. To become a parent, one must negotiate with a partner, or with per- sons representing alternative paths (artifi- cial insemination, surrogates, adoption) to parenthood. Many gay men see the identity
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of prospective father as incompatible with the identity of gay man. However, some gay men are fathers. Interviews focused on how this identity change occurred; consid- eration by a man of parenthood was trig- gered by caring for a child, meeting a gay or lesbian parent, or contact with an adop- tion agency (Berkowitz & Marsiglio, 2007). Adoption of the identity was the product of negotiations with intimate partners, birth mothers, lawyers, and other agents of orga- nizations associated with reproduction.
As we enact major roles, especially fa- milial and occupational roles, we evaluate our performances and thereby gain or lose self-esteem—one’s sense of how good and worthy one is. Self-esteem is influenced by one’s achievements; Maria has high self-esteem as a consequence of being the first in her family to earn a law degree, and a senior partner in a prestigious law firm. Self-esteem is also influenced by the feed- back one receives from others.
Identities and self-esteem are crucial guides to behavior, as discussed in Chap- ter 4. We therefore consider identities and self-esteem as the second component of the life course.
Stress and Satisfaction. Performing career activities often produces positive feelings, such as satisfaction, and negative feelings, including stress. These feelings reflect how we experience the quality of our lives. Thus, stress and satisfaction are the third compo- nent of the life course.
An important influence on the amount
of stress or satisfaction experienced by a partner in a dual-earner relationship is the balance between marital and work roles. A study of dual-earner couples found that couples who shared in making decisions and in which both spent time doing household or housekeeping tasks experienced equity (see Chap. 14) (Bartley, Blanton, & Gilliard, 2005). Couples in which one person exerted
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unilateral influence and did a dispropor- tionate share of housework perceived less equity and experienced stress.
Changes in career roles, such as having a baby, adopting a child, or changing jobs, place emotional and physical demands on the person. Life events, such as moving or serious conflict with a parent or lover, may have similar effects. These are referred to as stressful life events. These may have posi- tive effects such as motivating career or housing improvements; when the person responds to stress as a positive challenge, it is referred to as eustress. At other times, the demands made on a person exceed the individual’s ability to cope with them; such a discrepancy is called stress (Dohrenwend, 1961). People who are under stress often experience psychological (anxiety, tension, depression) and physical (fatigue, head- aches, illness) consequences (Wickrama, Lorenz, Conger, & Elder, 1997).
These feelings vary in their intensity in response to life course events (see Chap. 1). Levels of stress, for example, change as ca- reer roles become more or less demanding (parenting roles become increasingly de- manding as children enter adolescence), as different careers compete with one another (family versus occupational demands), and as unanticipated setbacks occur (one’s em- ployer goes bankrupt). Levels of satisfaction vary as career rewards change (salary in- creases or cuts) and as we cope more or less successfully with career demands (meeting sales quotas, passing exams) or with life events (a heart attack or a car accident).
The extent to which particular events or transitions are stressful depends on several factors. First, the more extensive the changes associated with the event, the greater the stress. For example, a change in employment that requires a move to an unfamiliar city is more stressful than the same new job located across town. Second, the availability of social support—in the
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form of advice and emotional and material aid—increases our ability to cope success- fully with change. To help their members, families reallocate their resources and re- organize their activities. Thus, parents lend money to young couples, and older adults provide care for their grandchildren so their children can work.
Personal resources and competence in-
fluence how one copes with stress. Coping
successfully with earlier transitions pre- pares individuals for later transitions. Men who develop strong ego identities in young adulthood perceive events later in their lives as less negative (Sammon, Reznikoff, & Geisinger, 1985). Life course mastery re- fers to the belief that an individual has di- rected and managed the trajectories of his or her life. Influences on this sense of mas- tery were studied through face-to-face in- terviews with more than 1,100 persons aged 65 and older (Pearlin, Nguyen, Schieman, & Milkie, 2007). Attaining occupational pres- tige (see Chap. 15) and accumulated wealth were positively related to life course mas- tery. Experiences of unfair treatment in ed- ucational or work settings, and number and severity of periods of economic hardship, were negatively related to it.
Influences on Life Course Progression
At the beginning of this section, we noted many events that had important impacts on the lives of Sally’s classmates: loss of a job due to economic recession, a helicop- ter crash, a car accident, having a baby, and graduating from a prestigious law school. These are life events—episodes that mark transition points in our lives and involve changes in roles. They provoke coping and readjustment (Hultsch & Plemons, 1979). For many young people, for example, the move from home to college is a life event marking a transition from adolescence to young adulthood. This move initiates a pe-
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riod during which students work out new behavior patterns and revise their self- expectations and priorities.
There are three major influences on the
life course: (1) biological aging, (2) social age grading, and (3) historical trends and events. These influences act on us through specific life events (Brim & Ryff, 1980). Some life events are carefully planned—a trip to Europe, for example. Other events, no less important, occur by chance—like meeting one’s future spouse in an Amster- dam hostel (Bandura, 1982a).
Biological Aging. Throughout the life cy- cle, we undergo maturation—biological changes in body size and structure, in the brain and central nervous system, in the en- docrine system, in our susceptibility to var- ious diseases, and in the acuity of our sight, hearing, taste, and so on. These changes are rapid and dramatic in childhood. Their pace slows considerably after adolescence, picking up again in old age. Even in the middle years, however, biological changes may have substantial effects. The shifting hormone levels associated with menstrual periods in women and with aging in men and women, for example, are thought by many to affect mood and behavior (Som- mer, 2001).
Biological aging is inevitable and irre- versible, but it is only loosely related to chronological age. Puberty may come at any time between 8 and 17, for example, and serious decline in the functioning of body organs may begin before age 40 or after age 85. The neurons of the brain die off steadily throughout life and do not regenerate. Yet intellectual functioning—long assumed to be determined early in life and to decline with aging—is now known to be capable of increase over the life course. Even in old age, mental abilities can improve with op- portunities for learning and practice (Baltes & Willis, 1982).
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A major life event or transition for em- ployed people is retirement. Many people base retirement decisions on biological age, retiring at 62 or 65 or 70. There are two other ways in which one can exit the labor force: suffering work-related disability or dying. Research on a sample of more than 7,200 women aged 50 to 80 used data collected in 1992 to identify variables associated with work status in 2004 (Brown & Warner, 2008). White, Black, and Hispanic women were equally likely to die before leaving the labor force, but Black and Hispanic women were 65 percent more likely to leave due to disability. Not surprisingly, women without health insurance, who rated their health as poor, or who reported greater limitations on their functioning in 1992 were more likely to suffer disability. This, in turn, re- flects their access to resources. Biologically based capacities and characteristics limit what we can do. Their impact on the life course depends, however, on the social sig- nificance we give them. How does the first appearance of gray hair affect careers, iden- tities, and stress, for instance? For some, this biological event is a painful source of stress. It elicits dismay, sets off thoughts about mortality, and instigates desperate attempts to straighten out family relations and to make a mark in the world before it is too late. Others take gray hair as a sign to stop worrying about trying to look young, to start basing their priorities on their own values, and to demand respect for their ex- perience. Similarly, the impact of other bi- ological changes on the life course—such as the growth spurt during adolescence, or menopause in middle age—also depends on the social significance given them.
Social Age Grading. Which members of a society should raise children, and which should be cared for by others? Who should attend school, and who should work full- time? Who should be single, and who
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104 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
should marry? Age is the primary criterion that every known society uses to assign peo- ple to such activities and roles (Riley, 1987). Throughout life, individuals move through a sequence of age-graded social roles. Each role consists of a set of expected behaviors, opportunities, and constraints. Movement through these roles shapes the course of life.
Each society prescribes a customary se- quence of age-graded activities and roles. In American society, many people expect a young person to finish school before he or she enters a long-term relationship. Many people expect a person to marry before she or he has or adopts a child. There are also expectations about the ages at which these role transitions should occur. These expec- tations vary by race and ethnicity; Hispanic adolescent girls expect to marry and have a first child at younger ages (22, 23) than Whites (23, 24) or Blacks (24, 24) (East, 1998). These age norms serve as a basis for planning, as prods to action, and as brakes against moving too quickly (Neugarten & Datan, 1973).
Pressure to make the expected tran- sitions between roles at the appropriate times means that the life course consists of a series of normative life stages. A nor- mative life stage is a discrete period in the life course during which individuals are ex- pected to perform the set of activities asso- ciated with a distinct age-related role. The order of the stages is prescribed, and people try to shape their own lives to fit socially ap- proved career paths. Moreover, people per- ceive deviations from expected career paths as undesirable.
Not everyone experiences major transi- tions in the socially approved progression. Consider the transition to adulthood; the normative order of events is leaving school, performing military service, getting a job, and getting married. Analyzing data about the high school class of 1972 collected be-
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Violating the age norms associated with a major transition, such as the transition to parenthood, may have lasting consequences. Having a baby at age 16 may force a young woman to leave school and limit her to a succession of poorly paid jobs. © Ian Hooton/Science Photo Library/Corbis
tween 1972 and 1980, researchers found that half of the men and women experienced a sequence that violated this “normal” path (Rindfuss, Swicegood, & Rosenfeld, 1987). Common violations included entering mil- itary service before one finished school and returning to school after a period of full- time employment.
In some cases, violating the age norms associated with a transition has lasting con- sequences. The transition to marriage is ex- pected to occur between the ages of 19 and 25. Research consistently finds that making this transition earlier than usual has long- term effects on marital as well as occupa- tional careers. A survey of 63,000 adults allowed researchers to compare men who married as adolescents with men of similar age who married as adults (Teti, Lamb, & Elster, 1987). Because the sample included people of all ages, the researchers could study the careers of men who married 20, 30, and 40 years earlier. Men who married as adolescents completed fewer years of ed- ucation, held lower-status jobs, and earned less income. Furthermore, the marriages of those who married early were less stable. These effects were evident 40 years after marriage. Early marriage has similar effects
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on women. Women who marry before age 20 experience reduced educational and oc- cupational attainment, and are more likely to get divorced (Teti & Lamb, 1989).
Movement from one life stage to an- other involves a normative transition—so- cially expected changes made by all or most members of a defined population (Cowan, 1991). Although most members undergo this institutional passage, each individual’s experience of it may be different, reflecting his or her past experience. Normative tran- sitions are often marked by a ceremony, such as a bar mitzvah, graduation, commit- ment ceremony, wedding, baby shower, or retirement party. But the actual transition is a process that may occur over a period of weeks or months. This process involves both a restructuring of the person’s cogni- tive and emotional makeup and of his or her social relationships.
Transitions from one life stage to an-
other influence a person in three ways.
First, they change the roles available for building identities. The transition to adult- hood brings major changes in roles. Those who marry or have their first child begin to view themselves as spouses and parents, responsible for others. Second, transitions modify the privileges and responsibilities of persons. Age largely determines whether we can legally drive a car, be employed full-time, serve in the military, or retire. Third, role transitions change the nature of socialization experiences. The content of socialization shifts from teaching basic values and motivations in childhood, to developing skills in adolescence, to trans- mittingrole-relatednormsforbehaviorin adulthood (Lutfey & Mortimer, 2003). The power differences between socializee and socializing agents also diminish as we age and move into higher education and occu- pational organizations. As a result, adults are more able to resist socialization than children (Mortimer & Simmons, 1978).
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Historical Trends and Events. Recall that Megan’s classmate Maria attributed her rapid rise to senior law partner to lucky his- torical timing. Maria applied to Yale Law School shortly after the barriers to women had been broken, and she sought a job just when affirmative action came into vogue at the major law firms. Megan’s’s friend Liz attributed her setback as a real estate bro- ker to an economic recession coupled with high interest rates that crippled the housing market. As the experiences of Maria and Liz illustrate, historical trends and events are another major influence on the life course. The lives of individuals are shaped by trends that extend across historical periods (such as increasing equality of the sexes and im- proved nutrition) and by events that occur at particular points in history (such as re- cessions, wars, earthquakes, and tsunamis).
Birth Cohorts. To aid in understanding how historical events and trends influence the life courses of individuals, social scien- tists have developed the concept of cohorts (Ryder, 1965). A birth cohort is a group of people who were born during the same pe- riod. The period could be 1 year or several years, depending on the issue under study. What is most important about a birth co- hort is that its members are all approxi- mately the same age when they encounter particular historical events. The birth co- hort of 1970 graduated from college about 1992, the beginning of a decade of sustained economic growth. Most of the graduates got good jobs and experienced several years of growth in their average annual house- hold income ( changes-average-annual). Between 1990 and 2000, incomes grew between 10 and 28 percent. This growth facilitated establish- ing relationships and families and purchas- ing homes. In contrast, the cohort of 1980 graduated about 2002, the beginning of a decade of economic shocks—9/11, major corporate bankruptcies, and the recession
soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE 105
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106 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
of 2008. During that decade average annual household incomes declined between 5 and 15 percent.
A person’s membership in a specific
birth cohort locates that person historically in two ways. First, it points to the trends and events the person is likely to have en- countered. Second, it indicates approxi- mately where an individual is located in the sequence of normative life stages when historical events occur. Life stage location is crucial because historical events or trends have different impacts on individuals who are in different life stages.
To illustrate, consider the effects of the
economic collapse of several large corpora- tions in 2001 and 2002. Enron and Arthur Andersen virtually collapsed; several other firms went out of business; and K-Mart, Tyco, and others downsized. Tens of thou- sands of workers and managers ages 30 to 60 were laid off. Some people in their 50s found it impossible to get new jobs, perhaps due to age discrimination, and experienced prolonged unemployment. Some persons in their 30s and 40s returned to school and subsequently entered new fields. Workers who kept their jobs were left with inse- curity and increased workloads. Persons just finishing college—the birth cohort of 1980—found fewer employment opportu- nities than those who graduated in 1995. Of course, not all members of a cohort ex- perience historical events in the same way. Members of the class of 2002 who majored in liberal arts faced more limited opportu- nities than those earning professional de- grees.
Placement in a birth cohort also affects
access to opportunities. Members of large birth cohorts, for example, are likely to be disadvantaged throughout life. They begin their education in overpopulated classrooms. They then must compete for scarce openings in professional schools and crowded job markets. As they age, they face
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reduced retirement benefits because their
numbers threaten to overwhelm the Social Security system. Table 3.4 presents exam- ples of how the same historical events affect members of different cohorts in distinct ways. These historically different experi- ences mold the unique values, ideologies, personalities, and behavior patterns that characterize each cohort through the life course. Within each cohort, there are dif- ferences too. For example, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan led to a father’s or moth- er’s absence for some children but not for others.
Cohorts and Social Change. Due to the differences in their experiences, each birth cohort ages in a unique way. Each cohort has its own set of collective experiences and opportunities. As a result, cohorts differ in their career patterns, attitudes, values, and self-concepts. As cohorts age, they succeed one another in filling the social positions in the family and in political, economic, and cultural institutions. Power is transferred from members of older cohorts with their historically based outlooks to members of younger cohorts with different outlooks. In this way, the succession of cohorts pro- duces social change. It also causes inter- generational conflict about issues on which successive cohorts disagree (Elder, 1975).
Occasionally, a major event or trend oc- curs that is profoundly discontinuous with the past; examples include Operation Des- ert Storm in 1991, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Septem- ber 11, 2001, and the wars in Iraq and Af- ghanistan that began in 2003. Cohorts that are in late adolescence or early adulthood when such events occur may be profoundly affected by them and, in consequence, may develop a generational identity—a strong identification with their own generation and a sense of difference from older and younger cohorts (Stewart, 2002). This iden- tity may shape their lives, influencing their
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TABle 3.4 history and life stage
Economic Expansion (1992–2000)
War in Iraq, Afghanistan
choice of work, political views, and family relationships.
In this section, we have provided an overview of changes during the life course. Based on this discussion, it is useful to think of ourselves as living simultaneously in three types of time, each deriving from a different source of change. As we age bio- logically, we move through developmental time in our own biological life cycle. As we pass through the intertwined sequence of roles in our society, we move through social time. And as we respond to the historical events that impinge on our lives, we move together with our cohort through historical time.
We have emphasized the changes that occur as individuals progress through the life course. However, there is also stabil- ity. Normative transitions usually involve choices, and individuals usually make choices that are compatible with preexist- ing values, selves, and dispositions (Elder & O’Rand, 1995). More than 90 percent of all
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Raised in dual-career family. Good schools.
Crowded schools, school violence.
Americans experience the normative tran- sition of marriage. Most persons choose when and whom they marry. Longitudinal research indicates that we choose a spouse who is compatible with our own person- ality, thus promoting stability over time (Caspi & Herbener, 1990).
Historical Variations
Unique historical events—wars, depres- sions, medical innovations—change life courses. And historical trends—fluctuating birth and divorce rates, rising education, varying patterns of women’s work—also in- fluence the life courses of individuals born in particular historical periods.
No one can predict with confidence the
future changes that will result from histor- ical trends and events. What we can do is to examine how major events and trends have influenced life courses in the past. Two examples will be presented: the his- torical trend toward greater involvement of
soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
CohorT oF 1970–1975
CohorT oF 1990–1995
TrenD or evenT
lIFe STAge When evenT oCCurreD
SoMe lIFe CourSe IMPlICATIonS oF The evenT
lIFe STAge When evenT oCCurreD
SoMe lIFe CourSe IMPlICATIonS oF The evenT
Young Adulthood
Good job opportunities, income. Affordable housing.
Terrorist Attacks (9/11/01)
Increased awareness of family, reordered priorities. Anxiety about health, safety.
Shaken sense of security, uncertainty about the future. Increased stress.
Increased political awareness, Military service disrupts careers, families.
Recession of 2008–2010
Economic uncertainty, possibly unemployment, loss of home.
Young Adulthood
High unemployment, poor job prospects. difficulty launching.
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108 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
women in the occupational world, and the effects of historical events on different co- horts of high school graduates. The goals of this section are (1) to emphasize the influ- ence of historical trends on the typical life course, and (2) to illustrate how to analyze the links between historical events and the life course.
Women’s Work: Gender Role Attitudes and Behavior. There has been a substan- tial increase in the percentage of women who work outside the home in the United States since 1960. We will consider the role of attitudes and of economic changes in this trend.
Gender Role Attitudes. In the past five decades, attitudes toward women’s roles in the world outside the family have changed dramatically. The historical trend in atti- tudes has been away from the traditional division of labor (paid occupations for men and full-time homemaking for women) to a more egalitarian view.
Consider the following statements. Do you agree with them?
1. It is much better for everyone involved if the man is the achiever outside the home and the woman takes care of home and family.
2. Women should take care of running their homes and leave the running of the country up to men.
3. Most men are better suited emotionally for politics than are most women.
These are typical of attitude statements included in one or more large-scale sur- veys of adults during the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s. In the 1970s, two-thirds or more of the people surveyed agreed with the first statement, and one-third agreed with the second and third statements. However, by 1998, only one-third agreed with statement
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1, and statements 2 and 3 were endorsed by only 15 and 21 percent, respectively (Davis, Smith, & Marsden, 2000). This shift from traditional to egalitarian gender role atti- tudes has been quite strong among women. Hispanic women are often characterized as having more traditional gender role attitudes. However, young, well-educated, working Latinas have more egalitarian at- titudes, similar to White women (Ginorio, Gutierrez, Cauce, & Acosta, 1995). Many Asian women struggle with conflicts be- tween traditional attitudes common in their cultures and the more egalitarian attitudes found in the United States (Root, 1995).
Workforce Participation. This historical trend is not limited to attitudes. Wom- en’s actual participation in the workforce has been on the increase for almost a cen- tury. Figure 3.3 shows the percentage of women employed outside the home since 1960. The proportion of married women who are employed grew steadily from 1960 to 1995; since 1995, employment levels have remained stable or declined slightly. Among young single women, the employ- ment level, already very high in 1960, has remained high. The proportion of women who work during pregnancy and who re- turn to work while the child is still an in- fant has also grown steadily over this time period (Sweet & Bumpass, 1987). In 1999, Black women, controlling for age and fam- ily status, were more likely to be employed outside the home than White women (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2000). Over- all, Hispanic women were less likely to be employed than Whites; rates for Asian women vary considerably, from 59 percent for South Asian women to 77 percent for Filipinas (Cotter, Hermsen, & Vanneman, 2004).
Why have women joined the workforce in ever greater numbers throughout the twentieth century? Has the spread of egal- itarian attitudes been an important source
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soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE 109
Many elderly people participate in organized activities, such as this exercise group. As long as they remain healthy and economically independent, most elderly people maintain their social involvements, activities, and self-esteem. © monkeybusinessimages/iStock
of influence? Probably not. The idea that
wives and mothers should not work ex- cept in cases of extreme need was widely held until the 1940s. Yet women’s employ- ment increased steadily between 1900 and 1940. The change in gender role attitudes occurred largely in the 1970s, yet women’s employment rose rapidly during the two decades preceding these attitude changes. It therefore seems likely that gender role attitude changes have not been a cause of the increased employment of women but a response to it—an acceptance of what more and more women are, in fact, doing.
What, then, are the causes? Perhaps most convincing is the argument that the types of industries and occupations that tradition- ally demand female labor are the ones that have expanded most rapidly in this century. Light industries like electronics, pharma- ceuticals, and food processing have grown
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rapidly, for example, and service jobs in ed- ucation, health services, and secretarial and clerical work have multiplied. Many of these occupations were so strongly segregated by sex that men were reluctant to enter them (Oppenheimer, 1970). Moreover, male la- bor has been scarce during much of the century due to rapidly expanding industry and commerce. The majority of the slack was taken up by a large pool of unemployed married women. These women could be pulled into the workforce at a lower wage because they were often supplementing their family income.
The changes noted in the preceding para- graph led to increased job opportunities for women. Other factors influenced women’s desire to work outside the home. One of these was continuing inflation and rising in- terest rates; in many families, two incomes became necessary to make ends meet.
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90% 80% 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10%
Single, Ages 25–34 Married, Children 6–17 Married, No Children Under 18 Married, Children Under 6
1970 1980 1990
1995 2000 2005 2012
The percentage of married women who are employed rose steadily from 1960 to 1995. Young single women main- tained virtually the same high level of employment throughout this period. Among married women, the level of employment rose slowly for those with no children and more rapidly among those with children under age 17. From 1995 to 2005, women’s employment rates were stable, except for single women whose rate declined steadily from 2000 to 2012. Since 2005, employment rates have declined for all four groups, probably due in part to the recession of 2008–2009.
Source: U.S. Bureau of the Census and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
FIgure 3.3 Women’s employment: 1960–2012
Other factors that may have promoted the increased employment of women include rising divorce rates, falling birth rates, ris- ing education levels, and the invention of labor-saving devices for the home. None of these factors alone can explain the continu- ing rise in the employment of women over the whole century. However, at one time or another, each of these factors probably strengthened the historic trend, along with changes in gender role attitudes.
The specific changes in women’s work
behavior demonstrate that the timing of a
person’s birth in history greatly influences
the course of his or her life. Whether you join the workforce depends in part on his- torical trends during your lifetime. So does the likelihood that you will get a college ed-
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ucation, marry, have children, divorce, die young or old, and so on.
Impact of Events. Life course researchers are also interested in the impact of events on those who experience them. One di- mension of impact is the magnitude of the event—that is, the number of people who are affected. The events of September 11, 2001, in the United States affected millions of people across the United States and in other parts of the world. The closing of a school affects hundreds of people in the community where the school is located.
How an event affects people depends on
the life stage at which it is experienced. One model of this relationship is displayed in Ta- ble 3.5. In one sense, events have the great-
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TABle 3.5
The impact of social events on the
Values and attitudes
Behavior, opportunities
African-American students and their sup- porters, and public protests; some parents demanded action by the Oak Valley school board. Eventually, the board decided to close the school (Stewart, 2002).
A team of researchers has been study- ing two cohorts of persons who were stu- dents at the school: members of the classes of 1955, 1956, and 1957, and of the classes of 1968 and 1969 (Stewart, 2000; Stew- art, Henderson-King, Henderson-King, & Winter, 2000). The research involves three methods—ethnographic observation, sur- veys, and in-depth interviews with selected persons. The team is interested in how the social structure—that is, race, class, and gender—shaped the students’ lives in in- teraction with their experiences at the high school. Note that these people went to the same school in the same neighborhood, and many knew one another. The research- ers could talk to each participant about the same people and events, being attentive to differences from one person to another in interpretation and experience. Many of the graduates still live in Oak Valley. The researchers also read newspapers and other documents from the 1950s and 1960s and interviewed people who were teachers, ad- ministrators, ministers, and other commu- nity members during this period.
The 1950s graduates, asked 45 years later
about the significance of events in their
lives, rated past events like World War II high in meaning to them personally. They viewed their years in high school as idyllic; both African and European Americans de- scribed the school as a successful “melting pot,” where differences were accepted and there was no conflict. There also were no major differences in the descriptions of men and women. In contrast, the 1960s cohort rated then-current events such as the civil rights and women’s movements as highly meaningful personally. Reflecting the sig- nificance of race, African Americans rated
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lIFe STAge When evenT IS exPerIenCeD
FoCuS oF IMPACT oF evenT
Adolescence, young adulthood
Identities, opportunities
Later adulthood
New life choices, revised identity
Source: Adapted from Stewart, 2000.
est impact on children, by influencing their basic values and attitudes. The effects of an event on adolescents and young adults may be on one or more of their identities and on the social and economic opportunities they experience. A helicopter accident had a profound effect on the opportunities of José (whom we met earlier), leaving him partially paralyzed. Events may affect an adult’s be- havior, but they are unlikely to influence his or her identity or basic values. On the other hand, for those at midlife, some events, such as a major illness or the loss of a job, may create new identities and opportunities.
The impact of an event may also vary depending on the person’s location in the social structure—that is, class, gender, and race. Consider the closing of a high school in Oak Valley, a prosperous Midwestern community. In the mid-1960s, the commu- nity and the school were racially integrated; about 50 percent of the students were Af- rican-American. As the civil rights move- ment gathered momentum in the United States, it affected the identities and be- havior of some of the students; some Afri- can-American students adopted distinctive dress and grooming patterns. The principal of the high school responded by imposing a dress code prohibiting facial hair; some students, parents, and faculty interpreted his action as racist. There was a walkout by
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112 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
the civil rights movement as much more meaningful than did European Americans. Both Blacks and Whites described Midwest High in terms of the diversity of students and teachers. Probing deeper, differences by race reappeared; African Americans discussed discrimination, racism, and the dress code, whereas European Americans discussed their fear of violence.
Turning to gender, African-American men spoke of the school with pride and noted the power of the community in the response to the dress code. These men suc- cessfully resisted a code they viewed as rac- ist. One said, “My experience left little to be desired.” African-American women spoke of the good teachers and the friends they made, but also about their limited social life as Black women and about racism. One said the worst thing about high school was “not being accepted or even noticed by many students.” White men discussed the diver- sity of the student body; they also some- times pointed to a breakdown of authority in the school. One said the worst thing was “getting beat up a couple of times.” Like Black women, White women discussed friendships, but they also discussed the breakdown of authority, recalling instances of sexual harassment.
Thus, the social structure interacts with events to determine their impact on per- sons. Carrying out an intensive study of specific events, such as the imposition of the dress code and subsequent events at Midwest High, makes us aware that the same events may be perceived very differ- ently depending on the perceiver’s race and gender.
This chapter has discussed the life course and gender roles in American society. So-
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cialization is the process through which infants become effective participants in so- ciety. It makes us like all other members of society in certain ways (shared language) but distinctive in other ways.
Perspectives on Socialization. (1) One approach to the study of socialization em- phasizes biological development; it views the emergence of interpersonal responsive- ness and the development of speech and of cognitive structure as influenced by matu- ration. (2) Another approach emphasizes learning and the acquisition of skills from other persons. (3) A third approach empha- sizes the child’s discovery of cultural rou- tines as he or she participates in them. (4) A fourth approach emphasizes the influence of social structure, which specifies who is responsible for socializing children, adoles- cents, and other types of persons, and what they should be taught.
Agents of Childhood Socialization. There are four major socializing agents in child- hood. (1) The family provides the infant with a strong attachment to one or more caregivers. This bond is necessary for the infant to develop interpersonal and cogni- tive skills. Family composition and social class affect socialization by influencing the amount and kind of interaction between parent and child. Ethnic and racial groups differ in the child-rearing techniques they use and in the values they emphasize. (2) Peers provide the child with equal status relationships and are an important influ- ence on the development of self. (3) Schools teach skills—reading, writing, and arithme- tic—as well as traits like punctuality and perseverance. (4) Mass media provide chil- dren and adolescents with powerful images of some of the identities available in the society and scripts for various types of rela- tionships and behaviors.
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Processes of Socialization. Socialization is based on three different processes. (1) In- strumental conditioning—the association of rewards and punishments with particu- lar actions—is a basis for learning both be- haviors and performance standards. Studies of the effectiveness of various child-rearing techniques indicate that rewards do not al- ways make a desirable behavior more likely to occur, and punishments do not always eliminate an undesirable behavior. The use of corporal punishment appears to increase the likelihood of later antisocial behavior. Through instrumental learning, children develop the ability to judge their own be- haviors and to engage in self-reinforce- ment. (2) We learn many behaviors and skills by observation of models. We may not perform these behaviors, however, until we are in the appropriate situation. (3) Social- ization also involves internalization—the acquisition of behavioral standards, making them part of the self. This process enables the child to engage in self-control.
Outcomes of Socialization. (1) The child gradually learns a gender role—the expec- tations associated with being male or fe- male. Whether the child is independent or dependent, aggressive or passive, depends on the expectations communicated by par- ents, kin, and peers. (2) Language skill is an- other outcome of socialization; it involves learning words and the rules for combining them into meaningful sentences. Related to the learning of language is the development of thought and the ability to group objects and persons into meaningful categories. (3) The learning of social norms involves parents, peers, and teachers as socializing agents. Children learn that conformity to norms facilitates social interaction. Chil- dren also develop the ability to make moral judgments. (4) Children acquire motives— dispositions that produce sustained, goal-
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directed behavior. Orientations toward
work are influenced primarily by parents;
middle-class families emphasize self-direc- tion, whereas working-class families em- phasize conformity.
Components of the Life Course. To aid our understanding of adult lives, we focused on three components of the life course. (1) The life course consists of careers—se- quences of roles and associated activities. The principal careers involve work, fam- ily, and friends. (2) As we engage in career roles, we develop role identities, and eval- uations of our performance contribute to self-esteem. (3) The emotional reactions we have to career and life events include feel- ings of stress and of satisfaction.
Influences on Life Course Progression.
There are three major influences on pro- gression through the life course. (1) The biological growth and decline of body and brain set limits on what we can do. The effects of biological developments on the life course, however, depend on the social meanings we give them. (2) Each society has a customary, normative sequence of age- graded roles and activities. This normative sequence largely determines the bases for building identities, the responsibilities and privileges, and the socialization experiences available to individuals of different ages. (3) Historical trends and events modify an in- dividual’s life course. The impact of a his- torical event depends on the person’s life stage when the event occurs.
Historical Variations. The historical tim- ing of one’s birth influences the life course through all stages. (1) Over the past 40 years, women’s participation in the workforce has increased dramatically, and attitudes to- ward women’s employment have become much more favorable. It is likely that the
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114 soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE
changes in attitudes reflect the changes in
labor force participation, rather than the reverse. The likelihood that women will experience pressures and opportunities to work outside the home is now greater at ev- ery life stage. (2) Events also influence the life course of those affected by them. The impact of an event depends on its scope and on the life stage and social structural loca- tion of the persons influenced by it.
List of Key Terms and Concepts
attachment (p. 71)
birth cohort (p. 105)
borderwork (p. 79)
career (p. 99)
cultural routines (p. 69) extrinsically motivated (p. 85) gender role (p. 88)
instrumental conditioning (p. 81) internalization (p. 87) intrinsically motivated (p. 85)
life course (p. 99)
life events (p. 102)
moral development (p. 95) normative life stage (p. 104) normative transition (p. 105) norms (p. 93)
observational learning (p. 85) punishment (p. 83) self-reinforcement (p. 85) shaping (p. 81)
socialization (p. 66)
stress (p. 102)
Critical Thinking Skill: Understanding the Difference Between Truth and Validity
In this chapter we introduced several theo- ries about how a person becomes an effec- tive member of society: the developmental perspective, the social learning perspective,
DeLamater, John D., et al. Social Psychology, Routledge, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central,
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the interpretive perspective, and the life- course perspective. A common reaction by students is to ask “So which one is right?” or “Which one is the best?” These questions reflect the belief that a theory is correct or incorrect, right or wrong. Truth can be de- fined as consistent with facts or reality. The belief that some things are true and others are not is one that most of us rely on as we navigate the world, so we often try to sort out truth from falsity.
However, this belief will not serve us well if we apply it to evaluating theory. A theory is an abstraction, a simplification, an inten- tional focus on one or a few elements of a complex situation in order to make sense of that situation. Every observer of children notes that they develop the skills needed to interact successfully with adults. But the explanation the observer provides depends upon his or her theoretical lens. The devel- opmental perspective says that this reflects the development of the brain so that it can process complex information, the devel- opment of motor control over posture, speech, and so on, and the maturation of vocal organs. The learning theorist would say that this reflects learning language via social learning and reinforcement, and in- teractional skills by observation of other children and adults interacting. The inter- pretive theorist would point out that she practiced many times per day interacting with other children, and developed her own unique brand of speech and gestures. Each theorist’s interpretations are consistent with some of the reality they are observing in the child’s behavior, so in this sense, each theory is “true.” So asking “Which one is true?” doesn’t help us evaluate the different theories.
Instead, we evaluate theories in terms of their validity. We look for evidence. We use the theory to generate testable questions or hypotheses, collect data or observations that are relevant to the hypotheses, and evaluate
Copyright © 2018. Routledge. All rights reserved.

the consistency between the observations or data and the hypotheses. We described this process in detail in Chapter 2. To the extent that the evidence is consistent with the theory each time the theory is tested, we develop confidence that the theory is valid. Evidence that is not consistent, or evidence reported by one researcher/group that can-
not be confirmed by subsequent research, gives us less confidence in the validity of the theory. In writing this book, we pay care- ful attention to the consistency of evidence, and often don’t include theories or ideas because the evidence for them isn’t consis- tent. So the next time you meet a new the- ory, what question will you ask?
DeLamater, John D., et al. Social Psychology, Routledge, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from onondaga-ebooks on 2020-01-30 10:55:49.
soCIalIzaTIon Through ThE lIfE CoursE 115
Copyright © 2018. Routledge. All rights reserved.

DeLamater, John D., et al. Social Psychology, Routledge, 2018. ProQuest Ebook Central,
Created from onondaga-ebooks on 2020-01-30 10:55:49.

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