This concludes the
Core Third Edition
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You May Ask Yourself
Socialization and the
Construction of Reality
Narrated by Dalton Conley, these brief animations explain the chapter-opening paradox and synthesize the research covered in the chapter. These animations are also on the free student StudySpace.
As we mentioned previously, socialization begins very early – some say even before the baby comes out of the womb! (For instance, what usually happens when the parents find out if the baby is going to be a boy or a girl?)
Ask your students if they have ever been compared to a relative (“You act just like your father when you’re angry!”). Ask them to speculate to whether they learned this trait or if they believe it is biological. Some may talk about acting like an aunt that they have never met. Others may give examples of acting just like a sister even though they were adopted from different biological families. Hopefully this will illustrate how difficult it is to tell which factor influences the behavior.
In other words, we like getting a positive response from people, so we try to replicate our actions when the response we received was positive. We use others as a “mirror.” In this example, when we style our hair and look in the “mirror,” we wait for the person looking back to say “that looks good,” and then we determine that we like our style.
Mead believed that children begin to develop a sense of self at about the same time that they begin to learn language.
It is important to note that socialization lasts throughout the lifespan.
Pascoe talks about the use of the term &quot;fag&quot; by high school boys. She argues that the term is used to police the boundaries of masculinities and is not primarily about sexuality. Ask the class to think about the social interactions among their friends andclassmates. What words are used by boys or men to let other boys and men know that they are not behaving in a &quot;manly&quot; way? Are there words that girls or women use to let other girls and women know that they are not behaving in a &quot;womanly&quot; way? Ask your students if these behaviors are damaging to the victim’s development or if this is simply a harmless example of “kids being kids.”
Each of these agents of socialization (sometimes referred to as agencies of socialization) has a different impact on us depending on where we are in the life span. For instance, the family is very influential on young children, but older children and adults are heavily influences by peers. We’ll talk more about each of these agents of socialization.
Annette Lareau discusses her book Unequal Childhoolds. She explains that parenting strategies vary by social class and points out that it is unclear whether these differences affect the long-term outcomes of children. Quotations from this interview are included in Chapter 4.
This happens often – when we get new jobs, enter or leave the military, or take on a new role (like becoming a spouse or parent).
Some of Merton’s key ideas are on the slides that follow.
An ascribed status could be race or sex. An achieved status could be a professional position like manager or chief executive officer (CEO).
Often times, you will hear a person being called by their master status. For instance, you may hear people talking about “that black man.” In that example, the description black came before describing the person as a man. Black is likely to be the master status. You also hear things like “disabled individual” or “stupid kid.” The first word is usually the master status – it tends to be the status that people notice above all others. Roles are just the behaviors of individuals in that status.
Role conflict happens when a person has two different roles to perform and they conflict with one another. For example, if you are a mother and a student, you might have class today and your child might have a soccer game at the same time. You have to choose between your two roles because they are conflicting with one another. With role strain, you have only one role, which conflicts with itself. For example, you are a student, so you know you are supposed to study tonight. However, there is also a party tonight. Your roommates pressure you to go to the party because “that’s what college students are supposed to do,” so you have to choose because the single role (college student) is pulling you in two different directions.
As mentioned previously, as soon as a baby is born, we start socializing him or her into specific roles. (Ask your class if they can think of some of the ways that little boys and girls are treated differently, which could lead to an interesting discussion on gender roles and culture including beliefs, values, and norms.)
For example, suppose you’re walking down the street and you witness a woman slapping a man in public. What are the possible meanings of that situation? It could be a fight or spousal abuse; it could be a joke or a friendly greeting, depending on how hard the slap is. It could be that he has just passed out and she is hoping to revive him. The participants could be actors shooting a scene from a film. Each of these definitions leads to a different set of potential consequences – you might intervene, callthe police, stand by and laugh, ignore them, summon paramedics, or ask for an autograph, depending on which meaning you act upon. Each definition of the situation lends itself to a different approach, and the consequences are significant.
We all know that we “act” a certain way depending on the context. In a job interview, we “put our best foot forward.” When we are at a family dinner, we watch our language. Goffman suggests that every interaction we are part of works this way – that we’re always aware of our performance.
Garfinkel suggested that there are unwritten rules in place in society, and the best way to figure out how important those rules are is to break them. If you get a very harsh reaction from bystanders, you know that the rule must be fairly important.If people don’t notice or don’t pay too much attention, you will know that the rule that you broke isn’t highly valued by that group.
Relationships used to be based mainly on physical proximity (called territorial relationships), but we are now as likely to form non-territorial relationships based on common interests and access to technology that keep people together even when they are physically apart. Using new technologies like digital video webcams, we can interact with each other outside of physical copresence. How will these new technologies affect our interactions and identities? Do these technologies affect education?
We do this very often by conforming to social norms.