The Child, Family, School, and Community: A Developmental Perspective
The Child, Family, School, and Community: A Developmental Perspective

The Child, Family, School, and Community: A Developmental Perspective

Lead Author(s): Susan Ferguson

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This text encourages practical, and relevant application to further our understanding of developmental processes in early childhood education.

 Chapter 1

Introduction to Socialization and  Development

Socialization is the way we learn the norms and beliefs of our society. From our earliest family and play experiences, we are made aware of societal values and expectations. (Photo courtesy of woodleywonderworks/flickr)​

This chapter will provide definitions and an introduction to the process of socialization. Within the chapter, we will explore some of the theorists who have attempted to describe and explain development and socialization.

Learning Outcomes

After reading this chapter you will be able to:

  • Understand the importance of socialization both for individuals and society
  • Describe psychological and sociological theories of socialization and child development
  • Describe psychological and sociological theories of self-development
  • Understand that moral development takes place in stages and is different between genders
  • Explain how socialization occurs and recurs throughout life
  • Understand how people are socialized into new roles at age-related transition points

Section 1 Introduction to Socialization

What is Socialization?

Why Socialization Matters

Why a Developmental Perspective

Aims of socialization

Section 2 Theories and Perspectives of Socialization and Development

Influences of Nature and Nurture

Maturation Theory

Arnold Gesell

Social Systems Theory

● Uri Bronfenbrenner

Psychological and Developmental Perspectives

● Sigmund Freud

● Erik Erikson

● John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth

● Jean Piaget

● Lev Vygotsky

Developmental Task Theory

● Robert Havighurst

Behaviorism and Learning Theory

Watson, Skinner, Pavlov, and Thorndike

Theories of Self-Development

● George Herbert Mead

● Charles Cooley

● Lawrence Kohlberg

● Carol Gilligan

Socialization of Young Adults



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Section 1 Introduction to Socialization

What is socialization?

Socialization is defined as the general process of learning the social norms of the culture and how to behave in appropriate ways. Through this process we internalize social and cultural rules. It describes the ways that people come to understand societal norms and expectations, to accept society’s beliefs, and to be aware of societal values. We learn what is expected in social roles such as mother, husband, child and student. We learn what is expected in occupational roles such as teacher, banker, plumber, custodian, sales clerk, and doctor (Gollnick and Chinn, 2012). Through the process of socialization we learn the lifespan skills that enable us to become effective members of groups and society.

Socialization includes learning through three important modalities. The first learning modality is cognitive. The cognitive domain involves the development of our mental skills and the acquisition of knowledge. The second modality is affective. The affective domain involves our feelings, emotions and attitudes. The third modality is evaluative. The evaluative aspect of socialization includes self-awareness. This entails reflecting and understanding of both what one is feeling and what one is thinking. It includes having a realistic assessment of one’s own abilities, and a well-grounded sense of self-confidence. It also leads to social awareness which involves understanding what others are feeling and thinking including appreciating and interacting positively with diverse groups.  Development in all three modalities occurs at different rates over time and differently for each individual.

Each child is born into a particular environment, society, culture, family, and set of circumstances that direct socialization. Contextual experiences contribute to a child's identity. This is influenced by parents, siblings, other family and friends, community, religion, economic level, ethnicity, and gender role expectations (Arce with Ferguson, 2013). Children are shaped by and will shape their environment in reciprocal ways that often begin at conception.  As children get older, socialization becomes a combination of both self-imposed rules, because the individual wants to conform, and externally-imposed rules. These are added together with the expectations of others.

DQ 1.1

As we are getting started, please introduce and tell a little about yourself. Include your family, pets, where you live, and what your educational goals are. Also, please answer what social challenges do you see currently in our U.S. society?

Why Socialization Matters

Socialization is critical both to individuals and to the societies in which they live. It illustrates how completely intertwined human beings are with their social worlds. It is through teaching culture to new members that a society perpetuates itself. It is our capacity for building on the insights of each previous generation that has allowed our species to progress from living in caves to traveling in space (Belsky 2007). If new generations of a society do not learn its way of life, it ceases to exist.  Whatever is distinctive about a culture must be transmitted to those who join it in order for a society to survive.

For U.S. culture to continue, for example, children in the United States must learn about cultural values related to democracy. They have to learn the norms of voting, as well as how to use material objects such as voting machines and other balloting methods. Of course, many people would argue that it is just as important in U.S. culture for the younger generation to learn the etiquette of eating in a restaurant or the rituals of tailgate parties at football games. In fact, there are countless ideas and objects that people in the United States hold important and teach children about in hopes of keeping the society’s way of life going through another generation.

DQ 1.2

DQ 1.2 What values, ideas, and objects would you include as important to keeping society going in the US?

Socialization is just as essential to us as individuals. Social interaction provides the means in which we gradually become able to see ourselves through the eyes of others. It is how we learn who we are, and how we fit into the world around us. In addition, to function successfully in society, we have to learn the basics of both material and non-material culture. We have to learn everything from how to dress ourselves to what is suitable attire for a specific occasion, from when and where we sleep to what we sleep on, and from what is considered appropriate to eat for dinner to how to use the stove to prepare it. Most importantly, we have to learn language. Whether it is the dominant language or one common in a subculture; whether it is verbal or through signs, we have to learn language in order to communicate and to think.

Why a Developmental Perspective

We study how children grow, learn, and change because it allows us to fully appreciate the cognitive, emotional, physical, social, and educational growth that children go through from birth and into early adulthood. We must also be aware of the context of the child's family and community.  Each family should be viewed in the context of the culture with which they identify.

A developmental perspective studies the change that occurs in people over the course of a long period of time. It encompasses theories that are both continuous and discontinuous in nature.

  • Discontinuous theories are stage-like. The processes of learning and development involve distinct stages, which are characterized by qualitative differences in behavior. Theorists who suggest discontinuous theories propose a specific beginning and end period for each stage.
  • Continuous theories explain that learning and development occur in incremental processes. Learning involves gradual and ongoing changes throughout the lifespan.
Development across the lifespan [2] ​

The developmental perspective explores three big questions:

  • Is nature or nurture more important in the developmental process? That is, is our development shaped more by our genetics or by our environment?
  • Do we develop in stages or continually?
  • How do we change throughout our lifespan? This includes understanding what elements remain stable.

A developmental early childhood perspective stresses that each aspect and maturation level of a child, whether it is physical, social-emotional, and/or cognitive, is equally important.  These aspects cannot really be separated from the other. Even though we may put the information about each in separate books or chapters, we know that they are all part of a whole. For example, if our goal is to promote school success, we also need to promote strong connections with families and communities.

As 21st Century early childhood education focuses on the child as a whole person, it encourages practical, meaningful, and relevant application to further our understanding of developmental processes. In addition to acquiring a developmental perspective, teacher educators must also be aware of barriers in implementation. They need to be able to create ways to argue for developmentally appropriate practices and against practices that are inappropriate that may lead children to develop maladaptive habits of thinking and coping. The best policy is to arm teachers with an understanding of child development and an education that grows with new knowledge. This includes the ability to incorporate and criticize various perspectives, as well as recognizing the values on which sound educational practices are based (Daniels and Shumow 2003).

It is not enough to read about the facts, theories, and concepts about development. Reflecting on how we make use of this knowledge in our practices with children and families is a vital part of our learning. Each chapter of this book will provide opportunities that encourage you to examine your own experiences, ideas, and understandings. As you read the material, watch the video clips, and click into the Links provided, keep in mind how you will utilize the understanding and connections you make today and in the future.

In the following sections and chapters, we will examine the complex process of socialization. The focus will be on the dynamics of human development and socialization that take place in our culturally pluralistic society. Cultural pluralism exists when smaller groups within a larger society maintain their unique cultural identities. Their values and practices are accepted by the wider culture provided they are consistent with the laws and values of the wider society. The emphasis of the book is on the influences of contemporary family living and cultural patterns on the child, on school-family relationships, and the community resources and services that support and strengthen families. We will see how socialization takes place through interaction with many individuals, groups, and social institutions. We will look at socialization through the perspectives of experts in the field. Some of the experts view development occurring in stages, some as occurring in gradual steps. You will see that there may be some overlapping of the concepts in these perspectives. We will explore how socialization is not only critical to children as they develop, but how it is also a lifelong process through which we become prepared for new social environments and expectations in every stage of our lives.

DQ 1.3

DQ 1.3 What do you think are the major issues in socialization for today's children?

Aims of Socialization

Many aims for socialization are discussed in the research. We will look at two explanations here that help to explain the aims or goals of socialization. Through the rest of the chapters we will see how these aims are reflected in society’s practices within families, schools, and communities.

According to Berns (2016) there are seven goals or aims of socialization.  These enable children to:

  • Learn what they need to know in order to be integrated into the society in which they live
  • Develop their potentialities and form satisfying relationships
  • Develop a self-concept
  • Learn self-regulation
  • Empower achievement
  • Acquire appropriate social roles
  • Implement developmental skills

It is important to see these goals or aims in relation to a whole and inclusive view of socialization:

  • Learning what is needed in order to integrate in society involves learning about and understanding material and non-material aspects of the culture. Material culture includes all of the physical objects that people create and give meaning. Cars, clothing, toys, schools, computers, and books would be examples. Non-material culture consists of thoughts and behavior that people learn as part of the culture in which they live. It includes rules, customs, language, religion or beliefs, values, knowledge, politics, and economics.
  • The ability to develop good and satisfying interpersonal relationships is seen as a major reason for fostering social learning. Also, importantly, our relationships are a fundamental source of learning (Smith, M. K., 2001).
  • Self-concept is an individual’s perception of his or her identity as distinct from that of others. It emerges from experiences of separateness from others. As you mature, your concept of self – your identity, your understanding of who you are – is influenced by significant others.
  • Self-regulation involves the process of bringing one’s emotions, thoughts, and behavior under control. This can be interpreted as routing our feelings through our brains before acting on them according to the situation.
  • By empowering achievement we provide motivation for success. Socialization gives meaning or purpose to adulthood and to the long process children have to go through to get there. Significant adults and peers influence children’s motivation to succeed. Adults who understand child development provide appropriate challenges producing highly competent and motivated children.
  • To be part of a group, individuals must have a function that complements the group and they acquire appropriate social roles through socialization.
  • To implement developmental skills children must accomplish developmental tasks. These are seen as midway between what an individual may need or want and societal demand. They arise from social pressure on individuals according to their development. The child is seen as an active learner regarding self-regulation and interacting with an active social environment (Havighurst, 1972).

Jeffery Arnett (1995) discussed his interpretation of three primary goals or aims of socialization in his paper, Broad and narrow socialization: The family in the context of a cultural theory. He stated that:

• Socialization teaches impulse control and helps individuals develop a conscience. This first goal is accomplished naturally. As people grow up within a particular society, they pick up on the expectations of those around them and internalize these expectations to moderate their impulses and develop a conscience.

• Socialization teaches individuals how to prepare for and perform certain social roles including occupational roles, gender roles, and the roles of institutions such as marriage and parenthood.

• Socialization cultivates shared sources of meaning and value. Through socialization, people learn to identify what is important and valued within a particular culture.

DQ 1.4

DQ 1.4 Describe how you see your own socialization process within all of these aims or goals.

Section 2 Theories and Perspectives of Socialization and Development

In this section, we will look at some of the theories and perspectives regarding development, socialization, and self-development. Self-development is the process of coming to recognize a sense of self that is then able to be socialized.

Theories give us the lenses or framework for understanding behavior, and may allow us to predict the future. Some of the theories we will examine offer broad general explanations of behavior that apply to people at every age. Some go stage by stage through the lifespan and describe specific changes that occur at particular ages. Many of these theories have similar concepts to illustrate the progression of development.

A theory of development deals with change over time and is concerned with three things. First, it describes the changes over time within an area or several areas of development. Secondly, it describes changes among areas of development. Thirdly, it explains these changes (Aldridge and Goldman 2006). No one theory has yet proved adequate to describe and explain development, or socialization.

Influences of Nature and Nurture

When we are born, we have a genetic makeup and biological traits. However, some experts assert that who we as human beings is a result of nurture, meaning the relationships and caring that surround us. Others argue that who we are is based entirely in genetics. According to this belief, our temperaments, interests, and talents are set before birth. From this perspective, then, who we are depends on nature.

It is clear that children need to be nurtured. They need love and support from parents, siblings, extended family, teachers, peers, and other people important in their lives. Children can be greatly affected by how these important people nurture them. Early childhood experiences have a pivotal and long-lasting impact on the architecture of the brain. They directly affect the way the brain becomes wired by forming neural pathways. This affects the ability to learn, and the capacity to regulate emotion.

Other elements of nurture include a child's economic and sociocultural environments. Poverty, malnutrition, and a lack of adequate medical care can alter a child's developmental path. Cultural heritage and diversity can enrich a child's life, and the neighborhood where the child lives can determine the schools and peer groups that a child will have.

Biological forces on development are inborn capacities that become expressed through growth and maturation. The impact of nature, or genetic inheritance, is obvious when children are born with genetic disorders such as Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis. Research also has shown genetic links to conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, and severe obesity. The role of nurture, however, also emerges in many of these same studies. For example, inheriting genes linked to schizophrenia, depression, or obesity does not guarantee that a person will actually develop the condition. Many people who inherit these genes do not develop the condition due to aspects of their environment (Cook & Cook 2009).

The “nature vs. nurture” puzzle was reinvigorated when genes were identified as the units of heredity, containing information that directs and influences development. When the human genome was sequenced in 2001, the hope was that all such questions would be answered. In the following decades though, it has become apparent that there are many more questions than before.

One way researchers attempt to measure the impact of nature is by studying twins. Twin studies have been an integral part of science because of the unique genetic similarities between twin siblings. Identical twins develop from a single fertilized egg and they have the same genome. This means that any differences between the twins are due to their environment, not their genetics. For nearly a century scientists have used twin studies to better understand the extent to which certain traits are inherited (Dovey 2015). Researchers need to be careful when drawing conclusions from twin studies, however, because the sample size for most of the studies have been relatively small. 

Some studies have followed identical twins who were raised separately. The pairs shared the same genetics but in some cases were socialized in different ways. Instances of this type of situation are rare. However, studying the degree to which identical twins raised apart are the same and different can give researchers insight into the way our temperaments, preferences, and abilities are shaped by our genetic makeup versus our social environment.

For example, in 1968, twin girls born to a mentally ill mother were put up for adoption, separated from each other, and raised in different households. The adoptive parents, and certainly the babies, did not realize the girls were one of five pairs of twins who were made subjects of a controversial scientific study (Flam, 2007).

In 2003, the two women, then age thirty-five, were reunited. Elyse Schein and Paula Bernstein sat together in awe, feeling like they were looking into a mirror. Not only did they look alike but they also behaved alike, using the same hand gestures and facial expressions (Spratling, 2007). Studies like these point to the genetic roots of our temperament and behavior.

Twins: Is it All in the Genes? - Our America with Lisa Ling - Oprah Winfrey Network 5:10

We now know that children are influenced by nature and by nurture, but it is important to note that children also influence their own development. To some extent in the US, children are free to make their own choices, and these choices can have consequences for development. When parents ask children to clean their room, for example, children can choose to obey or not. Their choices can then influence how their parents respond to them. Also, think of the larger choices children make as they grow up.  They choose whether to fight with bullies or find peaceful resolutions, whether to try drinking alcohol or abstain, whether to drop out of school or continue on to college.

Choices such as these are influenced by the basic personality characteristics the child inherits (nature) and by the supports and pressures in the child's life (nurture.) However, they are also often made by the child's own freedom to choose different options. The child's choices can then influence how other people respond back to them resulting in reciprocal relationships. People influence children and their development, as children make choices and influence other people. It goes both ways. In short, biology (nature) provides rich potential for becoming human and may present general tendencies, such as the tendency to seek out social interaction or to use language.  However, nature does not determine the particular form such social development takes.

So, we do not need to argue about whether development is controlled completely by nature or completely by nurture. Thanks to the results of behavior genetics research, we are beginning to understand the interactive roles played by both of these powerful forces. We have reached a point where we know that the correct response is not “nature” or “nurture,” but some combination of the two.

√ Checking in
Do you think your development was influenced more by nature or by nurture?

Maturation Theory

Arnold Gesell (1880 – 1961) was an American psychologist who conducted numerous studies on child development. He became one the nation’s foremost authority in development and developmental milestones. His research on developmental milestones is still widely used by pediatricians, psychologists, educators, and other professionals who work with children. He developed techniques for observing children in natural play situations without disturbing them, thus providing behavioral measures free from the effects of interference by researchers.

Gesell recognized the importance of both nature and nurture in children's development. He believed that children go through the stages he identified in a fixed sequence, within a certain time period, based on innate human abilities. Based on his studies, Gesell concluded that all children pass through certain maturational stages, or developmental milestones in essentially the same manner. Children progress through these stages naturally over time, and independently of learning.

Gesell noted that four major areas are included in that development: motor, linguistic, adaptive, and personal-social behavior. He produced a scale known as The Gesell Developmental Schedules that included all four areas to measure normal child development. This scale measured whether children between four weeks and six years of age developed normally or deviated from expected growth. This was the first such scale ever created, and has been widely used in subsequent research in medical and educational fields.

                                        Gesell Documentary (Gesell’s work past and present) 2010 13:23

Social Systems Theory

Urie Bronfenbrenner's Theory of Ecological Development

Urie Bronfenbrenner (1917 - 2005) was a Russian-born American developmental psychologist best known for his Ecological Systems theory of child development. Bronfenbrenner saw the process of human development as being shaped by the interaction between an individual and his or her environment. The specific path of development was a result of the influences of a person's surroundings. Those influences include their parents, friends, school, work, and culture. He observed that at the time developmental psychology was only studying individual influences on development in unnatural settings. In his own words, developmental psychology was, "...the science of strange behavior of children in strange situations with strange adults for the briefest possible periods of time." Bronfenbrenner's research and his theory was key in changing the perspective of developmental psychology by calling attention to the large number of environmental and societal influences on child development (Bronfenbrenner, 1979).

His scientific work and advocacy of parental involvement in children's education led to his 1965 appointment to a federal panel that laid the foundation for Head Start. As a co-founder of the school readiness program, he helped insure that over 20 million disadvantaged children and families have been (and continue to be) served over the last 40 years.

His theory specifies five types of environmental systems with interactive influences within and between the systems. The systems are the Microsystem, the Mesosystem, the Exosystem, the Macrosystem, and the Chronosystem. The first four nested systems contain roles, norms, and rules that can powerfully shape development. The Microsystem is the direct environment in our lives such as our home and school. The younger the child, the less interaction he or she has with the systems beyond the Microsystem. The Mesosystem is how relationships connect to the microsystem. The Exosystem is a larger social system where the child plays no role. The Macrosystem refers to the cultural values, customs, and laws of society (Sincero 2012). The Chronosystem refers to changes in these systems over time. In essence, this theory shows that in development, everything is connected to everything else.

Bronfenbrenner’s five systems have been likened to Russian Nesting Dolls. The image shows each system:

Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Systems theory of child development​ [3]

Looking at the systems more closely:

1. The Microsystem

The microsystem's setting is the direct environment we have in our lives such as the home or school setting. Your family, friends, classmates, teachers, neighbors and other people who have a direct contact with you are included in your micro system. The microsystem is the setting in which we have direct social interactions with these social agents. It is important to note that we are not mere recipients of the experiences we have when socializing with these people in the micro system environment. We are also contributing to the construction of the environment (Sincero 2012).

2. The Mesosystem

The mesosytem involves the relationships between the microsystems in one's life. This means that your family experience may be related to your school experience. For example, if a child is neglected by his parents, or has a difficult relationship with his siblings, he may have a lower chance of developing a positive attitude towards his teachers, or may withdraw from a group of classmates.

3. The Exosystem

The exosystem is the interaction among two or more settings that are indirectly linked. For example, a father's job requiring more overtime might influence his daughter's performance in school because he can no longer help with her homework.

4. The Macrosystem

The macrosystem setting is broader and takes in the actual culture of an individual. The cultural contexts involve socioeconomic status, ethnicity, beliefs, customs, values, and morals of the person and/or his family. For example, a child from a wealthier family may attend afternoon music lessons while a child from a lower socioeconomic level works in a part time job after school to help support his family.

5. The Chronosystem

The chronosystem includes the transitions and shifts in one's lifespan. This may also involve the socio-historical contexts that can influence a person. The chronosystem represents the chronological nature of life events and changes in culture over time. It refers to how they interact and change the individual and their circumstances through transition. For example, a child losing her mother to illness would no longer have that support or role model in her life (Reese-Weber, Bohlin, & Durwin 2012).

It is important to understand that changes in any one of the systems can result in changes to aspects in all or some of the other systems. 

                                         Bronfenbrenner's Ecological System of Development 10:59

DQ 1.5

Using the each of the systems in the Ecological Approach proposed by Bronfenbrenner (1979) discussed both in the Chapter and in the Video, briefly describe your socialization process and the factors in your environment that have influenced you.

Psychological and Developmental Perspectives

Freud’s Psychological Theory

Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was one of the most influential modern scientists to theorize about how people develop a sense of self. He believed that personality and sexual development were closely linked. He divided the maturation process into psychosexual stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital. He theorized that people’s self-development is closely linked to early stages of development, like breastfeeding, toilet training, and sexual awareness (Snowden 2006).

Freud believed that failure to properly engage in or disengage from a specific stage results in emotional and psychological consequences throughout adulthood. According to his theory, an adult with an oral fixation may indulge in overeating or binge drinking. An anal fixation may produce a neat freak (hence the term “anal retentive”), while a person set in the phallic stage may be promiscuous or emotionally immature.

Freud also believed that we all had a conscious, preconscious, and unconscious level. In the conscious we are aware of our mental process. The preconscious involves information that, though is not currently in our thoughts, can be brought into consciousness. Lastly, the unconscious includes mental processes we are unaware of. Although no solid empirical evidence supports Freud’s theory, his ideas continue to contribute to the work of scholars in a variety of disciplines.

Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Psychologist Erik Erikson (1902–1994) created a theory of personality development based, in part, on the work of Freud. However, Erikson believed that the personality continued to change over time and was never truly finished. His theory includes eight stages of development beginning with birth and ending with death. According to Erikson, people move through these stages throughout their lives. In contrast to Freud’s focus on psychosexual stages and basic human urges, Erikson’s view of self-development gave credit to more social aspects of development. These aspects incorporate the way we negotiate between our own base desires and what is socially accepted (Erikson 1982). 


Erik Erikson​ [4]

He explained his theory in eight stages, each of which has two crisis (a positive and a negative) to resolve. Each stage builds upon the successful completion of earlier stages. The challenges of stages that are not successfully completed may reappear as problems in the future. However, mastery of a stage is not required to advance to the next stage (Crain 2011). Erikson also believed that if a crisis was not resolved well, an individual having the right kind of support or experiences could make up for the lack later in life.

Stage one is trust versus mistrust, which occurs during infancy from 0-1 year of age. The primary task of this important stage is to learn whether or not other people, especially primary caregivers, regularly satisfy their basic needs. If caregivers are consistent with sources of food, comfort, and affection, an infant learns to trust that others are dependable and reliable. The world feels like a good, safe place. This forms the basis of the child’s sense of identity. If caregivers are neglectful, or perhaps abusive, the infant instead learns mistrust and that the world is an undependable, unpredictable, and possibly dangerous place.

Stage two is autonomy versus shame and doubt, which occurs during early childhood between the ages of 1-3. The child begins to discover the beginnings of his or her independence. Parents must facilitate the child's sense of doing basic tasks "all by themselves" to assist in the forming of autonomy. Discouragement can lead to the child doubting his or her worth, and feeling shameful for trying.

Stage three is initiative versus guilt, which occurs during the play or preschool ages from 3-6. Does the child have approval to do or try things on their own, such as dress him or herself? If parents and teachers encourage and support children's efforts, while also helping them make realistic and appropriate choices, children develop initiative. They learn independence in planning and undertaking activities. But if, instead, adults discourage the pursuit of independent activities or dismiss them as silly and bothersome, children develop guilt about their needs and choices.

Stage four is industry versus inferiority, which occurs during school age from 6-11. At this stage children begin comparing their self-worth to others, such as in a classroom environment or playing field. If children are encouraged to make and do things and are then praised for their accomplishments, they demonstrate industry. They begin to become diligent, persevere at tasks until completed, and put work before pleasure. If instead children are ridiculed or punished for their efforts, or if they find they are incapable of meeting their teachers' and parents' expectations, they develop feelings of inferiority about their capabilities.

Stage five is identity versus identity diffusion, which occurs during adolescence. As they make the transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescents reflect on the roles they will play in the adult world. Initially, they are apt to experience some role confusion, such as mixed ideas and feelings about the specific ways in which they will fit into society.  They may experiment with a variety of behaviors and activities. There is a great deal of questioning of self: Who am I? How do I fit in? Where am I going in life? The adolescent is also newly concerned with how they appear to others. Erikson believed, that if the parents allow and encourage the child to explore, they will achieve a sense of identity. If, however, the parents continually push him or her to conform to their views, the teen may face identity confusion.

Stage six is intimacy versus isolation, which occurs during young adulthood. This is the first stage of adult development. This development usually happens during young adulthood,  between the ages of 18 to 35. Dating, marriage, family, and friendships are important during this stage in life. By successfully forming loving relationships with other people, individuals are able to experience love and intimacy. Those who fail to form lasting relationships may feel isolated and alone.

Stage seven is generativity versus self-absorption, which occurs during adulthood. The second stage of adulthood happens between the ages of 35-64. During this time people are normally settled in their lives and know what is important to them. A person is either making progress in their career, or treading lightly and unsure if this is what they want to do for the rest of their working lives. Also during this time, a person is enjoying raising their children and participating in activities, which gives them a sense of purpose. If a person is not comfortable with the way their life is progressing, they are usually regretful about the decisions that they have made in the past and feel a sense of uselessness.

Stage eight is integrity versus despair, which occurs in old age. This stage affects the age group of 65 and on. During this time an individual is reaching the last chapter in their life. Retirement is approaching or has already taken place. Ego-integrity means the acceptance of life in its fullness. This includes the victories and the defeats, what was accomplished, and what was not accomplished. Wisdom is the result of successfully accomplishing this final developmental task. Wisdom is defined as “informed and detached concern for life itself in the face of death itself.” (Erikson 1997).


                                                                Erikson's Stages of Development 12:01

                                                    Erikson’s Theory of Psychosocial Development

Attachment Theory

John Bowlby (1907-1990) was a British child psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. He was the first attachment theorist, describing attachment as a "lasting psychological connectedness between human beings." Bowlby believed that the earliest bonds formed by children with their caregivers have a tremendous impact that continues throughout life.  These bonds serve as the foundation for all future social development. He proposed that children are born with an innate drive to form attachments with caregivers. According to Bowlby, attachment operates to keep the infant close to the mother, improving the child's chances of survival. It ensures that infants and children have enough support and protection to survive until they are able to function independently. The central theme of attachment theory is that mothers or other caregivers who are available and responsive to their infant's needs establish a sense of security in their children. The infant knows that the caregiver is dependable, which creates a secure base for the child to then explore the world. Bowlby proposed that the quality of attachment to a caregiver has profound implication for the child's security and capacity to form trusting relationships at every age ( Huitt & Dawson 2011).

Bowlby believed that there are four distinguishing characteristics of attachment:

1. Proximity Maintenance - The desire to be near the people we are attached to.

2. Safe Haven - Returning to the attachment figure for comfort and safety in the face of a fear or threat.

3. Secure Base - The attachment figure acts as a base of security from which the child can explore the surrounding environment.

4. Separation Distress - The anxiety that occurs in the absence of the attachment figure.

Separation Anxiety [5]​

Bowlby was interested in understanding the separation anxiety and distress that children experience when separated from their primary caregivers.

Research psychologist Mary Ainsworth (1913 – 1999) expanded on Bowlby’s original work. She developed her famous and somewhat controversial "Strange Situation" assessment, in which a researcher observes a child's reactions when a mother briefly leaves her child alone in an unfamiliar room. One of the goals was to determine the nature of attachment behaviors and styles of attachment. The study involved observing children between the ages of 12 to 18 months responding to a situation in which they were briefly left alone and then reunited with their mother. The experiment was set up in a small room with one way glass so the behavior of the child could be observed covertly. Ainsworth determined that the way the child behaves during the separation and upon the mother's return can reveal important information about attachment. Based on her 1970’s observations and research, Ainsworth concluded that there were three main styles of attachment: secure attachment, ambivalent-insecure attachment, and avoidant-insecure attachment. Securely attached infants are associated with sensitive and responsive primary care.  Ambivalent-insecure attached infants are associated with inconsistent primary care.  Aviodant-insecure  infants are associated with unresponsive primary care. 

Securely attached children comprised the majority of the sample in Ainsworth’s (1971, 1978) studies.

• Such children feel confident that the attachment figure will be available to meet their needs. They use the attachment figure as a safe base to explore the environment and seek the attachment figure in times of distress.

• Securely attached infants are easily soothed by the attachment figure when upset. Infants develop a secure attachment when the caregiver is sensitive to their signals, and responds appropriately to their needs. Secure attachment in infancy is associated with social competence as early as age three.

Ambivalent and avoidant insecure  children do not orientate to their attachment figure while investigating the environment.

• They are very independent of the attachment figure both physically and emotionally.

• They do not seek contact with the attachment figure when distressed. Such children are likely to have a caregiver who is insensitive and rejecting of their needs (Ainsworth 1979).

• The attachment figure may withdraw from helping during difficult tasks and is often unavailable during times of emotional distress.

Ainsworth (1978) suggested the caregiver or maternal sensitivity hypotheses as an explanation for different attachment types. The hypothesis argues that a child’s attachment style is dependent on the behavior their mother shows towards them.  ‘Sensitive’ mothers are responsive to the child’s needs and respond to their moods and feelings correctly. Sensitive mothers are more likely to have securely attached children.  In contrast, mothers who are less sensitive towards their child, for example those who respond to the child’s needs incorrectly or who are impatient or ignore the child, are likely to have insecurely attached children.

According to Ainsworth, the attachment patterns developed in infancy and toddlerhood are fairly stable throughout the lifespan. Bowlby’s and Ainsworth’s work has generated countless studies into the nature of attachment and the different attachment styles that exist between children and caregivers.

A major determination of attachment studies is that it is vital for the children who do not develop a secure attachment as infants to be provided opportunities to repair the original attachment relationship. This can be constructed through some form of attachment outside the home, perhaps through interaction with a teacher or mentor.

                                              Children's Attachment Theory and How to Use it 19:10

Children acquire a self and personality, but they also learn how to think and reason.

Piaget's Cognitive Development Theory

Jean Piaget (1896–1980) was a Swiss psychologist who recognized that the development of “self” evolved through a negotiation between the world as it exists in one’s mind and the world that exists as it is experienced socially (Piaget 1954).

Jean Piaget [6]​

He proposed the concept of developmental stages, which laid the foundation for his theory of cognitive development. He believed that children learn by actively constructing knowledge through hands-on experiences. ( Wood, Wood, & Boyd 2006). He suggested that the adult's role in helping the child learn was to provide appropriate materials that the child can interact with and use to construct understanding. He used Socratic questioning to get children to reflect on what they were doing, and he tried to get them to see contradictions in their explanations.

Piaget believed that intellectual development takes place through a series of four stages. He held that these stages are not separate from one another, but rather that each stage builds on the previous one in a continuous learning process.

The four stages described in Piaget's theory are: Sensorimotor, Pre-operational, Concrete Operational, and Formal Operational.

1. Sensorimotor stage: The first stage is from birth to age two. Children experience the world through movement and their five senses. During the Sensorimotor stage children are extremely egocentric, meaning they cannot perceive the world from others' viewpoints. Until around three months of age, the child's whole world is in the here and now because it cannot yet be represented mentally. In a very literal sense, objects and people only exist when the child can actually sense them and interact with them. When objects are not being sensed, then they cease to exist to the child.

2. Preoperational stage: Piaget's second stage, the Pre-operational stage, starts when the child begins to learn to speak at age two and lasts up until the age of seven. By observing sequences of play, Piaget was able to demonstrate that towards the end of the second year, a qualitatively new kind of psychological functioning occurs. During the Pre-operational stage of cognitive development, Piaget noted that children do not yet understand concrete logic and cannot mentally manipulate information. Children’s increase in playing and pretending takes place in this stage. However, the child still has trouble seeing things from different points of view. The children's play is mainly categorized by symbolic play and manipulating symbols. Such play is demonstrated by the idea of checkers being snacks, pieces of paper being plates, and a box being a table. Their view of symbols exemplifies the idea of play with the absence of the actual objects involved (Santrock 2004).

3. Concrete operational stage: From ages seven to eleven children can now conserve and think logically. They understand reversibility, but are limited to what they can physically manipulate. They are no longer egocentric. During this stage, children become more aware of logic and conservation, topics that were previously foreign to them. Children also improve significantly with their classification skills

4. Formal operational stage: Children develop abstract thought and can easily conserve and think logically in their mind from adolescence and into adulthood. This occurs roughly from ages 11+ to approximately sixteen and on wards. Abstract reasoning is newly present during this stage of development. Children are now able to utilize metacognition and think abstractly. Metacognition is an awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes. Along with this, children in the formal operational stage display more skills oriented towards problem solving, often in multiple steps.

Piaget theorized that as children interact with their environments, both physical and social, they organize and process information according to groups or units of interrelated ideas called "schemes".  Schemas are the basic building blocks of  cognition, and enable us to form a mental representation of the world. Piaget called the schema the basic building blocks of intelligent behavior, a way of organizing knowledge. 

Vygotsky's Sociocognitive Theory

Lev Vygotsky (1896 – 1934) was a Soviet developmental psychologist. His theory of the development of higher cognitive functions in children proposed that reasoning emerged through practical activity in a social environment. His findings indicated that reasoning is dependent on cultural practices and language as well as on universal cognitive processes (Vygotsky 1978). Vygotsky also theorized the concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD). This is the term for the range of tasks that a child is in the process of learning to complete. He viewed the child as an apprentice guided by adults and more competent peers into the social world (Huitt & Dawson 2011). The lower limit of the ZPD is the level of skill reached by the child working independently. That is also referred to as the child’s actual developmental level. The upper limit is the level of potential skill that the child is able to reach with the assistance of a more capable instructor. He viewed the ZPD as a way to better explain the relationship between children’s learning and and their cognitive development. He believed that learning always precedes development in the ZPD. Therefore, development always follows the child’s potential to learn. Through the assistance of a more capable person, a child is able to learn skills or aspects of a skill that go beyond the child’s actual developmental or maturational level. This person can be an adult, an older child, or a peer who has higher mastery of the skill and can teach or show the child steps towards mastery.

                                                    Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development 3:01

Vygotsky [7]​

Vygotsky also referred to the development of social rules that form in young children. For example, when children play house and adopt the roles of different family members or community workers, they explore what those roles entail. Vygotsky gave an example of two sisters playing being sisters. The rules of behavior between them that go unnoticed in daily life are consciously acquired through play.

In addition to social rules, the child acquires self-regulation which is the ability to control one’s emotions and behavior in the face of temptations and impulses. For instance, when a child stands at the starting line of a running race, she may well desire to run immediately so as to reach the finish line first. However, her knowledge of the social rules surrounding the game and her desire to enjoy the game enable her to regulate her initial impulse and wait for the start signal.

Vygotsky strongly focused on the role of culture in determining the child's pattern of development. He argued that development moves from the social level to the individual level (Vygotsky 1978). He claimed that psychology should focus on the progress of human consciousness through the relationship of an individual and their environment. He suggested that development does not progress through stages. Rather, that the developmental process that begins at birth and continues until death is too complex for such structure and finality. (Yamagata-Lynch 2010). Vygotsky's work is also called sociocultural theory. We will explore the role of culture in socialization further in Chapter 8.

In his lifetime, Vygotsky's theories were controversial within the Soviet Union. In the West, during the 1970s, his theories became a central component in the development of new models in developmental and educational psychology. Today his theories are widely known. The early 21st century has seen a number of scholarly studies and the use of many of Vygotsky's central concepts and theories (Yasnitsky & van der Veer (Eds.) 2014).

Developmental Task Theory

Robert Havighurst (1900 - 1991) suggested a bio-psychosocial model of development. The theory proposed that developmental tasks at each stage are influenced by the individual’s combined biology (physiological maturation and genetic makeup), their psychology (personal values and goals) and their sociology (specific culture to which the individual belongs).

Havighurst (1972) asserted that development is continuous throughout the entire lifespan, occurring in six stages. The individual moves from one stage to the next by means of the successful resolution of problems or the performance of developmental tasks. These tasks are typically encountered within the individual's culture.  If the person successfully accomplishes and masters the developmental task, they feel pride and satisfaction, and consequently earns the community's or society’s approval. This success provides a sound foundation which allows the individual to accomplish tasks encountered at later stages. Conversely, if the individual is not successful at accomplishing a task, he or she is unhappy and is not accorded the desired approval by society. This can result in the individual having difficulty when faced with subsequent developmental tasks. Havighurst’s theory presents the individual as an active learner who continually interacts with a similarly active social environment (Havighurst 1972). The applications of the theory extend to the field of education and have maintained influence over educators and psychologists worldwide.

Developmental tasks will differ across cultures, however, Havighurst proposed a list of common critical lifespan developmental tasks. These tasks are categorized within six stages of development. The following (adapted from The Psychology Notes HQ Online Resources for Psychology Students) is a brief list of these specific developmental tasks and the stages of development.

Infancy and Early Childhood – birth to 5 years

  • Learning to walk
  • Learning to control bodily wastes
  • Learning to talk
  • Learning to form relationships with family members

Middle Childhood – 6 – 12 years

  • Learning physical skills for playing games
  • Developing school-related skills such as reading , writing, and counting
  • Developing conscience and values
  • Attaining independence

Adolescence – 13 – 17 years

  • Establishing emotional independence from parents
  • Equipping self with skills needed for productive occupation
  • Achieving gender-based social role
  • Establishing mature relationships with peers of both sexes

Early Adulthood – 18 – 35 years

  • Choosing a partner
  • Establishing a family
  • Managing a home
  • Establishing a career

Middle Age – 36 – 60 years

  • Maintaining economic standard of living
  • Performing civic and social responsibilities
  • Relating to spouse as a person
  • Adjusting to physiological changes

Later Maturity – over 60 years

  • Adjusting to deteriorating health and physical strength
  • Adjusting to retirement
  • Meeting social and civil obligations
  • Adjusting to death or loss of spouse

Behaviorism and Learning Theory

John B. Watson (1878-1958) and B. F. Skinner (1904-1990) believed that all behavior was learned. They judged that only outward behavior that can be observed and measured was worth studying. Any aspect that could not be seen, such as emotions or cognition, was considered unimportant. They rejected the idea that development happened in stages, and any belief in innate instincts or behavior. According to Watson and Skinner, learning takes place through the consequences of the individual’s actions. People will repeat behavior that is reinforced, and stop behavior that is not reinforced. They demonstrated that attention should be given to behavior that is desired, and that behavior not wanted should be ignored.

Other influential behaviorists were Ivan Pavlov (1849-1936) who further investigated classical conditioning and Edward Thorndike who studied operant (or instrumental) behavior. Pavlov's experiments with dogs provide the most familiar example of the classical conditioning procedure. In simple conditioning, the dog was presented with a stimulus such as a light or a sound, and then food was placed in the dog's mouth. After a few repetitions of this sequence, the light or sound by itself caused the dog to salivate.

Edward Thorndike (1874–1949) helped lay the scientific foundation for modern educational psychology. He concluded that reward is a much more effective motivator than punishment. He emphasized that the satisfaction must come immediately after the success, or the lesson would not sink in. Thorndike opposed the idea that learning should reflect nature, and believed that schooling should improve upon nature. His influences on education are seen in his ideas supporting rote learning, and the mass marketing of tests and textbooks.

                                                                                 Behaviorism 4:57

Theories of Self-Development

Many scholars have described the process of self-development as a precursor to understanding how that “self” becomes socialized.

George Herbert Mead (1863–1931) studied the self which he recognized as a person’s distinct identity that is developed through social interaction. In order to engage in this process of “self,” an individual has to be able to view him or herself through the eyes of others. That is not an ability that we are born with (Mead 1934). Through socialization we learn to put ourselves in someone else's shoes and look at the world through their perspective. This assists us in becoming self-aware, as we look at ourselves from the perspective of the "other."

How do we go from being newborns to being humans with “selves?” Mead believed that there is a specific path of development that all people go through. During the preparatory stage, children are only capable of imitation. They have no ability to imagine how others see things. They copy the actions of people with whom they regularly interact, such as their mothers, fathers, and siblings. This is followed by the play stage, during which children begin to take on the role that another person might have. Thus, children might try on a parent’s point of view by acting out “grownup” behavior, like playing “dress up” and acting out the “mom” role, or talking on a toy phone in the way they see their father do.

During the game stage, children learn to consider several roles at the same time and how those roles interact with each other. They learn to understand interactions involving different people with a variety of purposes. For example, a child at this stage is likely to be aware of the different responsibilities of the people in a restaurant who together make for a smooth dining experience. They understand that someone seats you, another takes and brings your order, someone else cooks the food, while another clears away dirty dishes.

Finally, children develop, understand, and learn the idea of the generalized other. This incorporates the common behavioral expectations of the general society. By this stage of development, an individual is able to imagine how he or she is viewed by one or many others and therefore, they have a “self” (Mead 1934, 1964).

                                                          George Herbert Mead- The I and the Me 5:27

Charles Cooley (1864–1929) one of the founders of Sociology, asserted that people’s self-understanding or self-development is constructed, in part, by their perception of how others view them.  He gave this process the term “the looking glass self” (Cooley 1902).

The Looking Glass Self process [8]​

According to Cooley, this process has three steps. First, we imagine how we appear to another person. Sometimes this imagination is correct, but may also be wrong since it is merely based on our assumptions. Second, we imagine what judgments people make of us based on our appearance. Lastly, we imagine how the person feels about us, based on the perceived judgments made of us. The ultimate result is that we often react or change our behavior based on how we feel people perceive us.

Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development

Moral development is an important part of the socialization process. The term refers to the way people learn what society considers to be “good” and “bad,” which is important for a smoothly functioning society. Moral development prevents people from acting on unchecked urges. Instead, they consider what is right for society and good for others.

An ability to distinguish between right and wrong emerges early in life and continues to develop over time. As children get older, they gain an increasing understanding of fairness and an increasing capacity to feel guilt, shame, and empathy about moral wrongdoings. As they make advances in cognitive development, and especially as they become capable of abstract thought, they reason about moral issues and dilemmas in increasingly sophisticated ways. They are more likely to behave in accordance with general moral principles. Even at the high school level, however, adolescents do not always take the moral road, as personal needs and self-interests often enter into the moral decisions. To some degree, different cultures foster different moral values. However virtually all cultural groups recognize the importance of fairness, justice, and concern for others.  We well look at moral development more closely in Chapter 4.

Lawrence Kohlberg (1927–1987) was interested in how people learn to decide what is right and what is wrong. He developed a theory of moral development that was based on Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. His theory includes three levels which are preconventional, conventional, and postconventional.

In the preconventional stage young children, who lack a high level of cognitive ability, experience the world around them only through their senses. The child weighs consequences of behavior as to how they will be affected directly, focusing on their own individual results.

At the conventional level the child can look beyond their own personal consequences and focus on and consider the perspectives of others. This type of reasoning sees the upholding of the rules to be most important. At this time children become increasingly aware of others’ feelings and take those into consideration when determining what’s “good” and “bad.” It is not until the teen years that conventional thinking fully develops.

The final stage, called postconventional, is when people begin to think of morality in abstract terms, such as Americans believing that everyone has the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. At this stage, people also recognize that legality and morality do not always match up evenly (Kohlberg 1981). For example, when hundreds of thousands of Egyptians turned out in 2011 to protest government corruption, they were using postconventional morality. They understood that although their government was legal, it was not morally correct.

Theory of Moral Development and Gender

Carol Gilligan (1936–) recognized that Kohlberg’s theory might show gender bias since his research was only conducted on male subjects. Would females study subjects have responded differently? Would a female social scientist notice different patterns when analyzing the research? To answer the first question, she set out to study differences between how boys and girls developed morality. Gilligan’s research demonstrated that boys and girls do, in fact, have different understandings of morality. Boys tend to have a justice perspective, by placing emphasis on rules and laws. Girls, on the other hand, have a care and responsibility perspective. They consider people’s reasons behind behavior that seems morally wrong.

Gilligan also recognized that Kohlberg’s theory rested on the assumption that the justice perspective was the right, or better perspective. Gilligan, in contrast, theorized that neither perspective was “better” and the two norms of morality served different purposes. She explained that traditionally boys have been socialized for a work environment where rules make operations run smoothly, while girls have been socialized for a home environment where flexibility allows for harmony in caretaking and nurturing (Gilligan 1982, 1990).

                                                       Kohlberg, Gilligan & Moral Development 6:50

We will be revisiting these and other theorists throughout the chapters.  Why is it important to view development and socialization though the lenses of these theories? Whether you choose to teach, go into social work, or are looking to be a great parent, a fundamental knowledge of child development is a necessity, not an optional extra. While every child does develop at their own pace, there are general guidelines and stages that we can use to inform our knowledge. These come in great use in terms of knowing what children are ready for, and also to provide some kind of basis which can be used to measure the progress of children. As a teaching professional, this understanding is imperative for fostering higher order reasoning and creating autonomous learners who are able to function successfully in the rapidly changing information age.

As mentioned earlier, in addition to acquiring a developmental perspective, teacher educators must also be aware of how to argue for developmentally appropriate practices and against practices that are inappropriate. The best policy is to arm oneself with an understanding of child development, socialization, and education. This can support the ability to incorporate or reject various perspectives, and recognize the values on which quality educational practices are based.  

√Checking in

What similarities and differences did you see among all of the theories and perspectives explored in this section?  How will knowing the theories assist you in your professional practice?

Socialization of Young Adults

Socialization is not a one-time or even a short-term event. We are not “stamped” by some socialization machine as we move along a conveyor belt and thereby become socialized once and for all. In fact, socialization is a lifelong process.

In the United States, socialization throughout the life span is determined greatly by age norms and time-related rules and regulations (Setterson 2002). As we grow older, we encounter age-related transition points that require socialization into new roles, such as becoming school age, entering the workforce, or retiring. For example, the U.S. government mandates that all children attend school. Child labor laws enacted in the early twentieth century nationally declared that childhood be a time of learning, not of labor. In countries such as China, Brazil, Niger, and Sierra Leone child labor remains common and socially acceptable. There is little legislation to regulate such practices in those areas (UNICEF, 2012).

Many of life’s social expectations are made clear and enforced on a cultural level. As children interact with others and watch others interact, the expectation to fulfill roles becomes clear. Over time, aspects of the roles may change. While in elementary or middle school, the prospect of having a boyfriend or girlfriend may be considered undesirable. The socialization that takes place in high school changes that expectation. Adolescents observe the excitement and importance attached to dating and relationships within the high school social scene. It quickly becomes apparent that one is now expected not only to be a child and a student, but also a significant other. Graduation from formal education such as high school, vocational school, or college involves socialization into a new set of expectations.

Educational expectations vary not only from culture to culture, but also between socioeconomic classes. Middle or upper-class families may expect and socialize their daughter or son to attend a four-year university after graduating from high school. Other families may expect their child to immediately begin working full-time, as many within their family have done before.

There are a number of cultural differences for that kind of socialization. For example, have you ever heard of gap year? It is a common custom in British society. When teens finish their secondary schooling (high school in the United States), they often take a year “off” before entering college. They might take a job, travel, or find other ways to experience another culture.

Prince William and Prince Harry [9]​

Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, spent his gap year practicing survival skills in Belize, teaching English in Chile, and working on a dairy farm in the United Kingdom (Prince of Wales 2012a). His brother, Prince Harry, advocated for AIDS orphans in Africa, and worked as a “jackeroo” (a novice ranch hand) in Australia (Prince of Wales 2012b).

In the United States, this life transition point is socialized quite differently. Taking a year off is generally frowned upon. Instead, U.S. youth are encouraged to pick career paths by their mid-teens.  They are expected to select a college and a major by their late teens, and to have completed all college schooling or technical training for their career by their early twenties.

In yet other countries, this phase of life is tied into conscription, which is compulsory military service. Egypt, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, and Singapore all have this system in place. Youth in these nations (often only the males) are expected to undergo a number of months or years of military training and service.

DQ 1.6

DB 1.6 How might your life be different if you lived in one of these other countries? Can you think of similar social norms related to age-transition points in life that vary from country to country?

In the process of socialization, adulthood brings a new set of challenges and expectations, as well as new roles to fill. As the aging process moves forward, social roles continue to evolve. Pleasures of youth, such as "wild nights out" and serial dating, become less acceptable in the eyes of society. Responsibility and commitment are emphasized. In adulthood, men and women are expected to “settle down.” During this period, many people enter into marriage, bring children into their families, and focus on a career path. They become partners or parents instead of students or significant others.

Anticipatory socialization​ [10]

Just as young children pretend to be doctors or lawyers, play house, and dress up, adults also engage in anticipatory socialization.  That is the preparation for future life roles. Examples  include a couple who live together before marriage, or soon-to-be parents who read infant care books and prepare their home for the new arrival.

As part of anticipatory socialization, adults who are financially able begin planning for their retirement, saving money, and looking into future healthcare options. The transition into any new life role, despite the social structure that supports it, can be difficult. According to Henig (2010) the five milestones that define adulthood are completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying, and having and socializing a child. The socialization process then continues within the family structure.


Socialization is important for many reasons. It is the process by which people learn the culture of their society. It is the life-long method by which they become fully human in terms of behavior, emotions, and cognitive ability.

Arnold Gesell developed his maturation theory based on children's developmental milestones. His  Developmental Schedules are still in use today.

Uri Bronfenbrenner saw the process of human development shaped by the interaction between an individual and his or her environment. The specific path of development is a result of the influences of a person's surroundings, such as their parents, friends, school, work, and culture. His Ecological Systems approach has had a major effect on our view of the socialization process. The systems are the Microsystem, the Mesosystem, the Exosystem, the Macrosystem, and the Chronosystem.

Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic theory of personality development stressed the role of unconscious forces and developing a proper balance among them. If they are in the wrong balance, the individual may engage in antisocial or other mentally disordered behavior. He theorized that people’s self-development is closely linked to early stages of development, like breastfeeding, toilet training, and sexual awareness.

Erik Erikson discussed identity development from birth and throughout the life span. Erikson’s theory encompasses eight stages, from infancy through old age. His work is important to our understanding of social-emotional milestones in our study of human development. The three stages in early development are: trust verse mistrust, autonomy versus shame and doubt, and initiative versus guilt.

John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth studied attachment in young children. They explained the importance of the emergence of emotional bonds between an infant and primary caregiver. The studies showed that it is vital for the children who do not develop a secure attachment as infants to have opportunities to repair the original attachment relationship.

Jean Piaget theorized that intellectual development takes place through a series of four stages of cognitive development from birth through adulthood. He demonstrated that children learn by actively constructing knowledge through hands-on experience. He held that these stages are not separate from one another, but rather that each stage builds on the previous one in a continuous learning process. The four stages are: sensorimotor, pre-operational, concrete operational, and formal operational.

Lev Vygotsky proposed a theory of the development of higher cognitive functions in children that saw reasoning as emerging through practical activity in a social environment. Therefore reasoning is contingent on cultural practices and language as well as on universal cognitive processes. He did not believe these functions occurred in stages.

Robert Havighurst proposed that developmental tasks at each stage are influenced by the individual’s combined biology (physiological maturation and genetic makeup), his psychology (personal values and goals) and his sociology (specific culture to which the individual belongs). He asserted that development is continuous throughout the entire lifespan, where the individual moves from one stage to the next by means of successful resolution of problems or the performance of developmental tasks.

Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead both theorized about how the self develops through socialization. Cooley’s concept of the looking-glass self-recognized that we see ourselves when we interact with other people. Through this process we develop our self-image. Mead’s concept of “taking the role of the other” stressed that children play at various roles and so learn what others expect of them.

Lawrence Kohlberg wrote about stages of moral development and emphasized the importance of formal rules. Carol Gilligan argued that boys and girls engage in different types of moral reasoning, with the boys’ type resting on formal rules and the girls’ resting more on social or personal relationships.

Socialization is a lifelong process. In the process of socialization, adulthood brings a new set of challenges and expectations, as well as new roles to fill. As the aging process moves forward, social roles continue to evolve.


Anticipatory socialization The process by which society integrates the individual, and the individual learns to behave in socially acceptable ways. Anticipatory socialization is also the learning of expectations for a role prior to placement in a new situation where the role would be assumed.

Attachment  A set of concepts that explain the emergence of an emotional bond between an infant and primary caregiver. 

Community  A group of people sharing fellowship and common interests; a group of people living in the same geographic area who are bound together politically and economically.

Culture The learned behavior, including knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, customs, and traditions, that is characteristics of the social environment in which an individual grows up.

Cultural pluralism exists when smaller groups within a larger society maintain their unique cultural identities. Their values and practices are accepted by the wider culture provided they are consistent with the laws and values of the wider society.

Developmental perspective studies the change that occurs in people over the course of a long period of time. It encompasses theories that are both continuous and discontinuous in nature.

Developmental task  A task that lies between an individual need as well as societal demand.

Ethnicity  An ascribed attribute of membership in a group in which members identify themselves by national origin, culture, race, or religion.

Material culture Includes the objects or belongings of human beings, including a wide range of physical items.

Metacognition is an awareness or analysis of one's own learning or thinking processes.

Moral development The way people learn what is “good” and “bad” in society.

Nature The influence of our genetic makeup on self-development

Non-material culture  The abstract creations of society (e.g. attitudes, beliefs, ideas, norm, and values) that influence behavior and direct socialization

Nurture  The role that our social environment plays in self-development

Self  A person’s distinct sense of identity as developed through social interaction.

Self-concept  An individual’s perception of his/her identity as distinct from others.

Self-esteem The value one places on his/her identity.

Self-regulation  The ability to control one’s impulses, behavior, and/or emotions until an appropriate time, place, or object is available for expression.

Socialization  The process where people come to understand societal norms and expectations, to accept society’s beliefs, and to be aware of societal values

Society A group of people who live in a definable community and share the same culture.

Theory An organized set of statements that explains observations, integrates different facts or events, and predicts future outcomes.

To Learn More:

Lawrence Kohlberg was most famous for his research using moral dilemmas. He presented dilemmas to boys and asked them how they would judge the situations. Click on the Link to read about Kohlberg;s most famous moral dilemma, known as the Heinz Dilemma.  

Learn more about Five other Sets of Twins who grew up apart and discovered each other later in life.  Click on the Link to view.


1. Interview 3 adults to discover their experiences with attachment in (a) their childhood, (b) with significant others as adults, and (c) if applicable, their experiences as a parent or caregiver. How do their responses compare with your own? What can you conclude regarding each person's early relationships?

2. To learn more about Vygotsky's theory of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), have a conversation with a preschool or kindergarten teacher.  Ask how they know when to assist a child with a challenging task (ZPD), or when to encourage the child to solve the challenge independently.

3.  Create a type-written Journal where you answer and reflect on the √ Checking in questions or statements in each of the eight chapters of the text.


Arce, E.M. with Ferguson, S. (2013) Curriculum for young children. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.

Arnette, J. (1995). Broad and narrow socialization: The family in the context of a cultural theory. Retrieved from

Boundless Sociology. (2015, July). Retrieved February 18, 2016 from

Belsky, J. (2007). Experiencing the lifespan. New York: Worth Publishers.

Berns, R. (2016). Child, family, school, community: Socialization and support. Stanford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Bowlby’s theory of attachment. Retrieved from

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Image References

[2] Image Courtesy of University of Florida Department of Psychology

[4] Image Courtesy of Sharnya G Raj CC-BY-SA-4.0

[5] Image Courtesy of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 CC BY-SA 2.0

[7] Image Courtesy of The Lev Vygotsky Project CC BY-SA 3.0

[8] Image Courtesy of SOC120 Word Press

[9] Image Courtesy of   Fergus Greer Soap

[10] Image Courtesy of Essay Creative Commons



Socialization describes:


how people interact during social situations


how people learn societal norms, beliefs, and values


a person’s internal mental state when in a group setting


the difference between introverts and extroverts


What occurs in Lawrence Kohlberg’s conventional level?


Children develop the ability to have abstract thoughts.


Morality is developed by pain and pleasure.


The child can look beyond their own personal consequences and focus on and consider other’s perspectives.


Parental beliefs have no influence on children’s morality.


What did Carol Gilligan believe earlier researchers into morality had overlooked?


The justice perspective


Sympathetic reactions to moral situations


The perspective of females


How social environment affects how morality develops


Why do you think researchers need to be careful when drawing conclusions from twin studies?


The results do not apply to singletons.


The twins were often raised in different ways.


The twins may turn out to actually be fraternal.


The sample sizes are often small.


Which factor does not greatly influence a person’s socialization?






Blood type




Which of the following is typically the earliest agent of socialization?






Mass media




Which of the following is true regarding U.S. socialization of recent high school graduates?


They are expected to take a year “off” before college.


They are required to serve in the military for one year.


They are expected to enter college, trade school, or the workforce shortly after graduation.


They are required to move away from their parents.


All but which choice is a characteristic of socialization


it continues throughout life


it is a reciprical process


it is a dynmic process


it begins in adolesence


An infant whose needs for nourishment and physical contact are met will develop what Erikson calls a sense of










Secure attachment in infancy is associated with later social competence