Babies are born without culture; and what or who they become greatly depends upon enculturation and their socialization. Just as it is hard to separate culture from history; it is also hard to separate culture studies from sociology studies. Social development, as well as cultural-specific learning usually begins with the parents or the primary caregivers of an infant.
In the first lesson of this series students were introduced to enculturation, which is acquiring culture from birth. Interestingly, the definition of socialization is also deemed a process of acquiring culture.
Socialization is also about forming one’s personality, learning one’s language, and learning what is appropriate behavior in everyday life. This sounds much like the definition of culture, too, because included in appropriate behaviors are gender roles. A girl must learn the proper roles of females in her specific culture. Boys must learn their appropriate roles as well. Both culture and socialization molds and forms human beings into the directions that are considered “normal” by the culture they are born into. These visuals depict only a few of the many ways in which people are both enculturated and socialized.
In order for a society to be successful, it must have some standards of uniformity, which creates much the same worldviews among friends, neighbors, and associates. When people have the same beliefs and expectations and share the same worldviews, it makes national governing work better. If children are required to attend school and are educated to learn specific rules and regulations, which have been decided upon beforehand, they will more likely conform to their culturally constructed norms.
Here we can see that gender roles are being exhibited, even if not verbally. Mom is putting a bow into a little girl’s hair. The girls also have skirts on; and the boys shorts, slacks and jeans. Wherever these children and mothers are headed, the mothers are culturally conscious of how they want their children to look and to behave.
Some religious practices may begin at birth but not continue on afterwards. Religion is a very powerful way in which children are enculturated, and socialized.
Long-time traditional rituals, are often required to be repeated generation after generation. They are engrained in societies as “cuture codes,” which are difficult to change.
As we see by these examples there are all sorts of ways in which people learn their culture and become socialized. Enculturation as well as socialization is a life-long process, which continues as we gain maturity and experiences which may alter our thinking about our own culture and how we do things.
The great thing is that we are human beings and we can learn new things and change our attitudes and behaviors as we gain more accurate truths. All cultures use different techniques to teach their young, but all people learn both informally and formally as we have seen in previous lessons.
Though women are said to have the least amount of power in most societies, sociologists have concluded that, “Most of the crucial early socialization throughout the world is done informally under the supervision of women and girls. Initially, mothers and their female relatives are primarily responsible for socialization.” If we look at America, we can definitely see that this is true. As a young mother, when I needed a baby sitter, I always chose another female – either a teenage girl in my neighborhood or a nearby female neighbor or relative. In Elementary School, my children had mostly female teachers as well.
A long-term field study of socialization by John and Beatrice Whiting in six different societies provides us with some details on how socialization is accomplished in different cultural and ethnic groups. Their chosen study groups were in Kenya, Africa, Rajputs, India, Taira of Okinawa, Japan, the Tarong of the Philippines, the Mixteca of Mexico, and a New England, North American society.
They found that socialization practices varied from society to society – this is the same with transfer of culture in different societies. They also found that children are generally socialized the same way in which their parents were socialized. Of course this would not be true of immigrants into a new homeland, where they must re-learn culturally and socially accepted practices, while their young are being acculturated in a different society and culture than their homeland culture.
The Whitings also found that there were different methods of controlling socialization cross culturally. They discovered that some societies use fear and punishment, where other societies used parental praise or non-praise for social control. Other societies used teasing and scaring to maintain order.
After learning that different cultures have different ways of teaching culture and socializing the young, think about your own socialization. How did your parents maintain social control in your family? How do you, if you are a parent, do the same? As an example, my mother used the threat of a belt or a tree limb (switch) to make me fear punishment for wrong-doing. Many people in my grandmother’s generation talked about being “taken behind the woodshed,” which was not a pleasant experience.
As we learn about different cultural perspectives with regards to what is right or wrong in socializing and teaching culture to the young, we quickly see that we can’t judge parental behavior by our own set of views and beliefs about what is right or wrong. It is all about culture; and what is right in one culture, may be wrong in another.