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1.3: Methods of Socialization

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    Methods of Socialization

    Methods of socialization includes affective methods, operant methods, observational methods, cognitive methods, sociocultural methods, and apprenticeship methods. Each method of socialization are important tools to help children grow in many areas of their development.

    Affective Method of Socialization

    Affective refers to feelings or emotions, such as love, anger, fear or disgust (Berns, 2016). How children feel about others, how children feel about themselves, and how they express their emotions are all included in the affective method. Attachments will be formed in the affective method.  Attachments are affectional ties a person form to another specific person, binding them together in spacing and enduring time (Ainsworth, 1973, pg 1). Children will have many attachments throughout their life. Their first attachment is very important to future behavioral outcomes. Children usually experience their first attachment with their caregiver(s). To be more specific, infants will experience an emotional attachment with their caregiver(s) which will have a lasting effect on the growing child. Attachments can determine how children learn, and respond to the world around them. Children also start developing temperament from the attachment they have with their caregiver(s).

    An older man holds an infant child and smiles.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\): Grandfather holding their grandchild. (CC BY-SA 2.0; Salim Virji via WordPress.)

    Operant Methods of Socialization

    Operant refers to producing an effect. This usually includes reinforcement. Reinforcement is an object or event that is following a behavior and that serves to increase the likelihood that the behavior will occur again (Berns, 2016). There are two types of reinforcement. Positive reinforcement is a reward, or pleasant consequence given for a desirable behavior (Berns, 2016). Examples of positive reinforcement includes clapping and cheering when a baby walks for the first time, giving a high five when a child tries a new food, and giving a hug or a pat on the back when a child does a good deed. Negative Reinforcement is the termination of an unpleasant condition following a desired response (Berns, 2016). Examples of negative reinforcement are removing a child’s extra chores if they complete their homework on time, and letting a child leave their room if they stop pouting.

    Operant methods of socialization cannot be effective using just positive and negative reinforcement. The goal is to encourage self-regulation, but since reinforcement happens externally, this may impact a child’s self-regulation skills in a negative way. Many of a child’s behaviors are learned behaviors, and some behaviors many be learned directly from reinforcement techniques. In this case, we want the learned behavior to disappear. The process of working towards the gradual disappearance of learned behaviors following the removal of the reinforcement is called extinction (Berns, 2016). A common misconception we have is that punishments are bad. Of course, there are effective and ineffective ways to implement punishment, but nonetheless, punishment is essential to correcting undesirable behaviors. Punishment is a physically or psychologically aversive stimuli or the temporary withdrawal of pleasant stimuli when undesirable behaviors occurs (Berns, 2016). Examples of punishments are removing a privilege, and scolding or harshly lecturing a child. Punishments can be effective socializing techniques if done correctly. Three effective techniques include timing (punishing the child closer to the time of the undesirable behavior), reasoning (accompanying the punishment with an explanation and solution), and consistency (creating expected results from repeated behaviors) (Berns, 2016). Lastly reinforcement and punishment should include feedback. Feedback is giving the child evaluative information on one’s behaviors, which can be both positive or negative.

    A teacher points at a paper held by an elementary school age boy sitting at a desk.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\): An elementary school teacher gives feedback to a student on their writing assignment. (CC BY-NC 4.0; Allison Shelley via EDUimages)

    Observational Methods of Socialization

    Observational methods include a very important, essential piece of socialization, which is modeling. Modeling is a form of imitative learning that occurs through observation. It allows us to learn appropriate social behavior, attitudes, and emotions by watching others. (Berns, 2016). Children may also learn inappropriate behavior, attitudes, and emotions through modeling as well. Children learn modeling from their parents and other family members in their microsystem, teachers, peers, and through media such as social media, YouTube, tv shows, and music videos. Children learn consequences of behaviors through modeling. If the person they are observing is punished or reinforced, the child may learn of the consequence of that behavior.

    A teenager reaches out his arm while his teacher and classmates look on.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{3}\): High schooler follows his instructor's modeling in their drama class. (CC BY-NC 4.0; Allison Shelley via EDUimages)

    Cognitive Method of Socialization

    Cognitive methods of socialization focuses on how individuals process information, and create meaning from experiences. How children cognitively perceive and experience the world will affect future outcomes. Cognitive methods of socialization include three major themes. The first major theme is instruction. Instruction provides knowledge and information and is a useful socializing mechanism. (Berns, 2016) There are several notable ways to assure that your instruction is effective. The child must understand the language used, which means the language must be appropriate for the child to process. Instruction must also me specific to the child’s age. If you tell a two year-old to grab the shoe to their left foot by the right shoe lace, they will not be able to follow that instruction.

    The second theme is setting a standard. A standard is a level of attainment or a grade of excellence regarded to a goal or a measure of adequacy (Berns, 2016). When setting standards, it is important to make sure the standard is obtainable, and appropriate for the child. Setting unrealistic standards can be harmful to the child as it can lower their self-esteem. Children will experience standards in every agent of socialization they experience. They will experience standards by teachers and administrators, in their peer groups, by other family members, when they walk into a library, and so on.

    The third theme is reasoning. Reasoning is giving explanations or causes for an act. Reasoning helps children draw conclusions and encounter self-regulatory mechanisms (Berns, 2016). It is important that the child can understand the language of the explanation given. If a 2-year old child spits on another child, and the teacher responds by saying, “your spit stays in your mouth. When you spit on others you are spreading germs and it is rude”, will the 2 year-old understand what germs are and what it is to be rude? Chances are the answer is no. Children under the age of 3 are generally egocentric (Piaget, 1974). We must consider where the child is cognitively, and learn how to communicate effectively with children to implement this method effectively.

    A young boy wearing protective glasses writes with a pencil on a sheet of paper while his teacher sitting next to him holds a magnifying glass.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{4}\): A kindergartner writes down his observations in a science center. (CC BY-NC 4.0; Allison Shelley via EDUimages)

    Sociocultural Methods of Socialization

    Sociocultural methods of socialization involve learned behavior, including knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, customs, and traditions, that is characteristic of the social environment in which an individual grows up (Berns, 2016).The sociocultural expectations of those around an individual continually influence that individual's behavior (Rogoff, 2003). Children are highly influenced by the expectations people around them set, and children are experiencing conformity of many sorts. It’s important to note social norms. Children will experience group pressure, and can find themselves trying to fit in and conform to social norms to gather a sense of self. Group pressure is not limited to peers. Social groups are any groups that influences one’s behaviors such as family, religious groups, peers, clubs, and school (Berns, 2016). How much a child is impacted by a group depends on three psychological factors which includes their attraction to the group, acceptance by the group, and the type of group. An example of a community group would be a gang. How attracted a person is to the gang, their status in the gang, and the type of relationships they have with the gang members will determine much of how they are impacted by that group. The type of activities the group engages in will impact future outcomes.

    Sociocultural methods of socialization also include traditions and symbols. Traditions are customs, and beliefs that are handed down from generation to generation (Berns, 2016). In other word, heritage is cultivated in children as they grow up (Pleck, 2000). Traditions can determine much of how a child interact and respond to the world around them. How a person problem solves, in many ways stem from their cultural traditions. Symbols are acts or objects that have come to be generally accepted as standing for or representing something else, especially something abstract (Vander Zanden, 1995). Symbolism is what birthed the idea of culture. Examples of symbolism includes the raising of the flag, wearing a crown, wearing a badge, etc.

    A card with a cartoon image of a person wearing a face mask with the numbers 1-10 lining the sides of the card.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{5}\): A card used by a teacher where children can earn mask breaks for good behavior. (CC BY-NC 4.0; Allison Shelley via EDUimages)

    Apprenticeship Methods of Socialization

    Apprenticeship is a process in which a novice is guided by an expert to participate in and master tasks (Berns, 2016). Children are guided through apprenticeship in all settings, it could be by their parent, peer, teacher, coach, or member of the community. Apprenticeship is an effective socialization tool to help build self-esteem as children are learning more about their abilities as they grow.

    Two girls, one standing on a chair, are at a counter in a kitchen washing dishes.
    Figure \(\PageIndex{6}\): An older sister shows her younger sibling how to wash dishes. (Public Domain; alyssasieb via Nappy)


    Ainsworth, M. D, S. (1973). The Development of Infant-Mother Attachment. In B.M. Caldwell & H. N. Ricciuti (Eds.), Review of Child Development Research (vol 3). Chicago: University of Chicago Press

    Berns, R. (2016). Child, Family, Community: Socialization and Support. 10th ed. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning

    Pleck, E. H. (2000). Celebrating the Family: Ethnicity, consumer, culture, and family rituals. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

    Piaget, J. (1974). The Language and Thought of the Mind. (M. Gabain, Trans.). New York: New American Library.

    Rogoff, B. (2003). The Cultural Nature of Human Development. New York: Oxford University Press

    Vander Zanden, J. W. (1995). Sociology: The cor (3rd Ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill.

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