The role of socialization is to acquaint individuals with the norms of a social group or society. Socialization prepares future members to participate in a group by teaching them the expectations held by other group members. Socialization is an important process for children, who are socialized at home and in school (Figure 1). For children, the process teaches what will be expected of them as they grow up and become full members of society. It is also important for adults who join new social groups. Broadly defined, socialization is the process of transferring norms, values, beliefs, and behaviors to future group members.
Three Goals of Socialization
In his 1995 paper, “Broad and Narrow Socialization: The Family in the Context of a Cultural Theory,” sociologist Jeffrey J. Arnett outlined his interpretation of the three primary goals of socialization. First, 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. Second, socialization teaches individuals how to prepare for and perform certain social roles—occupational roles, gender roles, and the roles of institutions such as marriage and parenthood. Third, socialization cultivates shared sources of meaning and value. Through socialization, people learn to identify what is important and valued within a particular culture.
The term "socialization" refers to a general process, but socialization always takes place in specific contexts. Socialization is culturally specific: people in different cultures are socialized differently, to hold different beliefs and values, and to behave in different ways. Sociologists try to understand socialization, but they do not rank different schemes of socialization as good or bad; they study practices of socialization to determine why people behave the way that they do.