3. Socialization and the life cycle

1. What is social reproduction? What are some specific ways the four main agents of socialization contribute to social reproduction?
Social reproduction: The process of perpetuating values, norms, and social practices through socialization, which leads to structural continuity over time.

Agents of socialization: Groups or social contexts within which processes of socialization take place.

Sociologists often speak of socialization as occurring in two broad phases, involving numerous agents of socialization – that is, groups or social contexts in which significant processes of socialization occur. Primary socialization, which occurs in infancy and childhood, is the most intense period of cultural learning. It is the time when children learn language and basic behavioural patterns that form the foundation for later learning. The family is the main agent of socialization during this phase. Secondary socialization occurs later in childhood and in maturity. In this phase, other agents of socialization, such as schools, peer groups, organizations, the media, and the workplace, become socializing forces. Social interactions in these contexts help people learn the values, norms, and beliefs of their culture.

2. Compare and contrast social roles and social identities.
Social roles: Socially defined expectations of an individual in a given status or social position.

Identity: The distinctive characteristics of a person or group’s character that relate to who he is and what is meaningful to him. Some of the main sources of identity include gender, sexual orientation, nationality or ethnicity, and social class.
Social identity: The characteristics that are attributed to an individual by others.

3. What are the five stages of the life course, and what are some of the defining features of each stage?
Childhood: Childhood is considered a distinct stage of life between infancy and the teen years. Because of the long period of childhood that we recognize today, societies now are in some respects more child-centered than traditional ones. But a child-centered society, it must be emphasized, is not one in which all children experience love and care from parents or other adults. The physical and sexual abuse of children is a commonplace feature of family life in present-day society, although the extent of such abuse has only recently come to light. Child abuse has clear connections to what seems to us today the frequent mistreatment of children in premodern Europe.

The Teenager: The biological changes involved in puberty (the point at which a person becomes capable of adult sexual activity and reproduction) are universal. Yet in many cultures, these do not produce the turmoil and uncertainty often found among young people in modern societies.
Young Adulthood: Young adulthood seems increasingly to be a stage in personal and sexual development in modern societies. Particularly among affluent groups, people in their early twenties take the time to travel and explore sexual, political, and religious affiliations. The importance of this postponement of the responsibilities of full adulthood is likely to grow, given the extended period of education many people now undergo.

Mature Adulthood: Some of the strains we experience now were less pronounced in previous times. People usually maintained a closer connection with their parents and other kin than in today’s mobile populations, and their work routines were the same as those of their forebears. In current times, major uncertainties must be resolved in marriage, family life, and other social contexts. We have to make our own lives more than people did in the past. The creation of sexual and marital ties, for instance, now depends on individual initiative and selection rather than being fixed by one’s parents. This represents grater freedom for the individual, but the responsibility can also impose difficulties.
Old Age: In traditional societies, older people were accorded great respect. In industrialized societies, by contrast, older people tend to lack authority within both the family and the social community. Having retired from the labor force, they may be poorer than ever before in their lives.

4. Describe how the life course stage of childhood has changed since medieval times (Mittelalter)?
In earlier societies, the young moved directly from a lengthy infancy into working roles within the community. The French historian Philippe Ariès (1965) has argued that childhood did not exist in medieval times. In the paintings of medieval Europe, children are portrayed as little adults, with mature faces and the same style of dress as their elders. Children took part in the same work and play activities as adults, rather than in the childhood games we now take for granted. The ideas that children have rights and that child labour is morally repugnant are recent developments.
5. According to Mead, how does a child develop a social self?
Social self: The basis of self-consciousness in human individuals, according to the theory of G.H. Mead. The social self is the identity conferred upon an individual by the reactions of others. A person achieves self-consciousness by becoming aware of this social identity.

Self-consciousness: Awareness of one’s distinct social identity as a person separate from others. Human beings are not born with self-consciousness but acquire an awareness of self as a result of early socialization. The learning of language is of vital importance to the processes by which the child learns to become a self-conscious being.

6. What are the four stages of cognitive development, according to Piaget?
Sensorimotor stage (from birth up to about age two)
A stage of human cognitive development in which the child’s awareness of its environment is dominated by perception and touch.

Preoperational stage (from two to seven)
A stage of cognitive development, in Piaget’s theory, in which the child has advanced sufficiently to master basic modes of logical thought.

Concrete operational stage (from seven to 11)
A stage of cognitive development, as formulated by Piaget, in which the child’s thinking is based primarily on physical perception of the world. In this phase, the child is not yet capable of dealing with abstract concepts or hypothetical situations.

Formal operational stage (from 11 to 15)
A stage of cognitive development at which the growing child becomes capable of handling abstract concepts and hypothetical situations.

7. How do Chodorow’s and Gilligan’s theories help us understand socialization influence on gender?
Chodorow’s Theory: The sociologist Nancy Chodorow argues that learning to feel male of female derives from the infant’s attachment to the parents from an early age. She emphasizes much more than Freud the importance of the mother rather than the father. Children become emotionally involved with the mother because she is the most dominant influence in their early lives. At some point this attachment has to be broken for the child to achieve a separate sense of self- to become less closely dependent.

Gilligan’s Theory: Carol Gilligan (1982) further developed Chodorow’s analysis, concentrating on the images adult women and men have of themselves and their attainments. Women, she agrees with Chodorow, define themselves in terms of personal relationships and judge their achievements in terms of their ability to care for other. Women’s place in the lives of men is traditionally that of caretaker and helpmate. But the qualities developed in these tasks are devalued by men, who see their own emphasis on individual achievement as the only form of success. Women’s concern with relationships appears to men as a weakness rather than as the strength that in fact it is.

The women were more tentative in their moral judgments than the men, seeing possible contradictions between following a strict moral code and avoiding harming others. Gilligan suggests that this outlook reflects the traditional situation of women, anchored in caring relationships, rather than the outward-looking attitudes of men. Women’s views of themselves are based on successfully fulfilling the needs of others, rather than on pride in individual achievement.

8. According to Carr, what is the “new midlife?” What is the significance of this new stage in the life course for women, in particular?
As gender roles continue to blur, Carr’s research has focused on the choices women make during a period she calls the “new midlife”. For many women, this is not an end but a time for new beginnings. More and more, women are feeling empowered to exit stale marriages, start their won businesses, learn from their daughters, and pick up new hobbies.
Many women who complied with the pressure to stay at home and raise children in the 1950s and 1960s have struggled with their sense of self-worth as they watched their daughters enter the workforce.

Social changes since the late 1960s have created a new normative context in which women and men are expected to be both successful workers and involved parents. Given this shift, midlife women who complied with the mid-twentieth century expectation that they should stay home with their children (rather than work for pay outside the home) may suffer regret or self-criticism, especially if they use the contemporary cultural idea as the standard for evaluating their past decisions and experiences.

9. What does Belsky’s research tell us about the influence of day-care on childhood development?
Belsky and his colleagues did indeed find that children who spent more time in child-care centres had more behaviour problems in elementary school, even after the researchers “held constant” or statistically controlled for other possible risk factors for problematic behaviours, such as parents’ socioeconomic resources and mental health. However, the researchers did not jump to the conclusion that childcare “caused” behaviour problems. Rather, they honestly noted that the effect sizes were very modest – that is, that the differences in behaviour problems between those children in childcare and those in family care were quite small.
Moreover, the scientists believed that several of their other findings were much more important, First, they found that children who were in high-quality child-care settings went on to have higher vocabulary scores than other children. Second, they found that the quality of parenting mattered much more than where a child was cared for. The authors wrote that “parenting quality significantly predicted all the development outcomes and much more strongly than did any of the child care predictors.” One reason parents matter more than child-care arrangements is that they are an enduring presence in the children’s lives, while day care is often just a short-term experience.
10. How do the media contribute to gender role socialization?
Gender socialization: The learning of gender roles through social factors such as schooling, the media and family.
Children’s toys, picture books, and television programs all tend to emphasize male and female attributes. Toy stores and mail-order catalogues usually categorize their products by gender.

The activities of males and females also differed. The males engaged in adventurous pursuits and outdoor activities demanding independence and strength. When girls did appear, they were portrayed as passive and were confined mostly in indoor activities. Girls cooked and cleaned for the males or awaited their return. Much the same was true of the adult characters. Women who were not wives and mothers were imaginary creatures such as witches and fairy godmothers.

11. How do parents and other adults reinforce gender roles?
Gender roles: Social roles assigned to each sex and labelled as masculine or feminine.

Studies of mother-infant interaction show differences in the treatment of boys and girls even when parents believe their reactions to both are the same. Adults asked to assess the personality of a baby given different answers according to whether they believe the child is a girl or a boy. In one experiment, five young mothers were observed interacting with a six-month-old called Beth. They smiled at her often and offered her dolls to play with. She was seen as “sweet”, and as having a “soft cry.” The reaction of a second group of mothers to a child the same age, named Adam, was noticeably different. They offered him a train or other “male” toys to play with. Beth and Adam were actually the same child, dressed in different clothes.