Primary Socialization

  • Socialization is the process whereby we learn to become competent members of a group. Primary socialization is the learning we experience from the people who raise us.
  • Researchers have many theories about the developmental stages that children experience.
  • Freud theorized that the development of the id, ego, and superego occurs over time and that the three must be in balance.
  • Mead developed a theory which posited that “self” is a product of social experience.
  • Cooley developed the notion of the looking-glass self.
  • Piaget posited four stages of cognitive development: sensorimotor, preoperational, concrete operational, and formal operational.
  • Kohlberg developed a theory of moral development with three levels: preconventional, conventional, and postconventional.
  • Agents of socialization are people, groups, and experiences that influence behavior and self-image. They include family, school, peer groups, and the mass media.
  • Isolated or institutionalized children may not experience primary socialization and can suffer many social and psychological defects as a result.


  • Primary socialization occurs in childhood. Resocialization, the learning of new norms and values, occurs later in life, when life circumstances change or when people join a new group.
  • The workplace is an agent of resocialization.
  • Total institutions are environments in which people are isolated from mainstream society and expected to adhere to rigid rules. They demand resocialization. Some examples of total institutions are prisons, mental institutions, and the military.

Anticipatory Socialization

  • When we learn new norms and values in anticipation of a future role, we are practicing anticipatory socialization.
  • Practicing new norms in advance makes the transition easier and lets us know whether the role is right for us.

Gender Socialization

  • Gender socialization is the tendency for boys and girls to be socialized differently. The impact of gender socialization can be seen in family, education, and career choice.

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