In 1970, François Truffaut directed a movie called L’Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child). It was allegedly a true story about two Frenchmen in the latter part of the eighteenth century who were walking in the countryside and came across a boy who appeared to be somewhere between six and eight years old. He couldn’t speak, walk, or relate to humans. It seemed he had raised himself, perhaps with the help of certain animals. The two men took the boy to Paris, where a doctor worked with him intensively for many years. Eventually, the boy was able to function in French society.
Unlike some species of animals, and unlike what we sometimes see in movies, we cannot raise ourselves—we must be raised by other people, who teach us language, manners, beliefs, and much more. What we learn from the people who raise us is called our socialization, and it’s a learning process that helps prepare us for a place in adult life. Socialization doesn’t end with the advent of adulthood. As we grow and mature, we become members of new groups and must learn new things in order to function in our new roles.