10.1 Social Interaction in Early Childhood: What is socialization and its agents?

Chapter 10


10.1 Define the term socialisation


As you interact with others, you realize that people differ in their mannerisms. Sometimes you find that people who have grown together or reared in the same family have some unique behaviours. This implies that much of human behaviour does not develop in a vacuum but it is learnt from the social environment. In this Chapter we are going to discuss how one acquires a repertoire of behaviour.



Socialization refers to the process through which one acquires knowledge, values, norms, beliefs, attitudes and practices that make him an effective member of a particular society. An infant comes to the world as a biological organism that is pre-occupied with personal comfort. It is through socialization the child become a member of a society. He or she behaves like a human being with a set of attitudes, values, likes dislikes, goals, purposes, patterns of responses and a concept of self. A child learns to regulate his behaviour through socialization. This implies that the process of socialization turns a human organism into a human personality. If a child lives with animals, he or she will be socialized by them to become an effective member of the group. For instance, if a human child lives with monkeys, he or she would learn to behave like them.


10.2 Describe the role of the following agents of socialization in early childhood

  • Family
  • Community
  • School
  • Mass Media
  • Religious & Cultural Institutions
  • House help


Socialization basically occurs through socializing agents. These include:-

The Family

This is the basic socialization agent, the child’s learns her or his first language from the family. The language that is used in the family becomes the child’s first language irrespective of the language of the ethnic group. A baby gets weaning in the family making her or him accustomed to some foods and not some others. The child also adopts a certain code of behaviour that is promoted by the prevailing parenting style in the family. In addition, attachment figures, who are used as a child’s references are found within the family. Consequently, the family plays a major role in a child’s socialization.



Like the family, the school instills a number of values in a child. First, the school perpetuates the society’s knowledge, skills, customs and believers to the child. Through subjects like music, literature, art and craft and social studies, the school plays some role in culture transmission. As the school introduces technologies such as the computer and internet, it socializes children to become effective members of a society that is changing rapidly, with many challenges.The school traditions play a major role in this type of socialization.



Peers provide information about the world that is from a different perspective as compared to socialization from in the family. Peers provide the child with feedbacks about their abilities.

This is due to the fact that the child is able to interact with his equals. They thus establish, whether they are better than, the same as or worse than their peers’ performance.

When interacting with peers, the child may experiment with various roles and discover how the others react. This way a child alters her or his behavior so as to be accepted by the peers. Peers also help the child to express own values and attitudes. Owing to the fact that people have a need for approval, the peer group as an agent of socialization has a strong influence on an individual’s behaviour.


The  Mass Media

These include newspapers, books, magazines, television, videos, movies, radios and other means of communicating to large audience but do not involve personal interaction. These agents socialize a child through impersonal means. Since children are likely to pick their behaviour from mass media, there is a major concern about children’s vulnerability to commercial adverts on television.  For example, many children demand that parents buy what they have seen on the screen.


The community

People in the neighborhoods regularly interact with a child. Due to proximity, these people have got much influence on the values, knowledge and skills that a child adopts. Like the family, they influence the language and the skills that a child learns. The child may focus on adults in the neighborhoods as her or his role models.  The older children in the community are also emulated.


Religious institutions

These are unified systems and practices that are related to some unique sacred beliefs.  Religion governs patterns of gender roles, child rearing, health care, mode of dressing and many other social aspects. Children are generally inducted into the parents, religion at birth, marking the beginning of religious socialization.


Religion influences the way a child accepts or copes with crises. It helps a child establish a code of response in times of difficulties. For example, the Christian religion teaches children to pray and continue trusting in God. Most religions try to inculcate pro-social values in children. They teach them that there is a reward for their good deeds and this makes children adhere to the values thus communicated. Most of these values are internalized.



Reflect on your religion and record all the attributes of your personal patterns of behaviour that are likely to have emanated from the institution’s socialization.


10.3 Examine the  five elements of ethnic norms that influence children’s socialization.

Ethnic orientation

Every community has some cultural practices and norms that are transmitted from generation to generation. For example on feeding, children get accustomed to the pattern existing in their community. There are some communities in which Ugali  dish cannot miss while others will not get satisfied without mukimo (commonly referred to as irio; mashed potatoes with green vegetables, maize and sometimes with beans) and children are socialized accordingly. In ethnic communities there are also some unique characteristics such as language, specific shared history , cultural rituals, physical attributes such as colour and  height, special talents and the like that influence a child’s socialization. According to Kluckton (1961) there are five elements of ethnic norms that influence children’s socialization. These are:

    1. How the people in an ethnic community relate with each other. This involves elements such as individualism or collectiveness, that is personal autonomy or loyalty to the group, respectively
    2. Significance of time dimension. Whether the culture associate time with some religious beliefs or progress. Those in the former dimension live one day at a time and are not likely to work for personal advancement, while the latter plan for the future and are likely to teach their children to labour for a better future.
    3. The valued personality type. That is whether a person’s value is pegged on what he does or what he is. If it is what one does, children are taught to put a lot of effort while if it is what they are there is nothing one could do to change her or his situation.
    4. The relationship of humans to nature. This influences socializing children to uphold values such as caring and caring for the environment or controlling and exploiting the natural resources for maximum gains. An example of caring for the environment is avoiding deforestation and use of pesticides or vice versa for the other orientation.
    5. Innate predispositions of human beings. This refers to the various beliefs that people have on the nature of a human being, whether there is natural goodness or evil. Those who believe in goodness nurture the child with kindness. Those who believe that humans are evil subject their children to punitive measures of discipline. For example, some communities believe that children must be beaten in order to learn.



Write a report on analysis of children socialization in your ethnic community with regards to the five elements that Kluckton (1961) established.


Other Socialization Agents include: Househelps with whom the child is likely to spend most hours of his wakefulness and members of the extended family. Influence of the extended family depends on proximity and availability of opportunities to interact.


Berns, R.M. (1997). Child, Family, School, Community: Socialisation and Support.        USA:     Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Kostelnik, Stein, Whiren and Soderman(1993). Guiding Children’s Social Development. USA:     South-Western Publishing Company

McCandless B.R. & Evans D. E. (1973). Children and youth: psychosocial development. Atlanta:     Dryden Press.


Testing Exercise 10

  1. i) Define the term socialisation
  2. ii) Discuss the role of socialization on a child.

iii) Describe the following as agents of children’s socialization

  1. a) Family
  2. b) School
  3. c) Religion
  4. d) Community
  5. e) Mass media
  6. iv) Discuss Kluckton’s  basic elements of ethnic norms that influence children’s socialization.



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