The following points highlight the five important agencies that have contributed in the process of socialisation. The agencies are: 1. The Family 2. The Peer Group 3. The School 4. The Books 5. The Mass Media.
Agency # 1. The Family:
The family gets the baby first. Hence the process of socialisation begins in the family. A child is born with some basic abilities that are genetically transmitted through germplasm. These abilities and capacities are shaped in ways determined by culture.
The mother with whom the relation of the child is the most intimate plays a significant role in the process of moulding the child in the initial stages. Subsequently, father and older siblings transmit to the child many other values, knowledge and skill that children are expected to acquire in that particular society.
Agency # 2. The Peer Group:
As the child grows older, his contemporaries begin to influence him. He spends most of his spare hours outside his work and study schedule with his peers in the playground and places outside his home. The attraction of peers is virtually irresistible to him.
He learns from them and they also learn from him. With the passage of time, the peer group influence surpasses at of parents significantly. It is not surprising that teen age is the age of parent-child misunderstanding.
In the socialisation of the child, the members of the family, particularly those who exercise authority over him, and the members of his peer group exercise two different kinds of influence upon him. Both authoritarian relationships (typified by the former) and equalitarian relationships (typified by the latter) are equally significant to him.
He acquires the virtues of respect, constraint and obedience from the first type of relationships, and the virtues of co-operation based on trust and mutual understanding from the second.
The importance of authoritarian element in the socialization process may be explained thus. First, the pattern of behaviour expected of a child in a society does not usually or in all cases correspond to the innate inclinations of the child. On the contrary, on many occasions he is taught to act contrary to biological inclinations and follow the prescriptions as well as the proscriptions of society.
Those who are mature and can command his respect and attention are obviously the proper persons to initiate the process of socialisation. Secondly, many cultural elements—both prescriptive and prescriptive— are not always amenable to reason. The child will naturally resent being asked to behave in a manner contrary to what his natural inclinations prompt him to do.
In cases like this, the authority of those who are responsible for reproducing and maintaining a child are in a unique position to make him accept their instructions without questioning the logic and the necessity of the contents of those instructions. He has to accept these simply because his superiors lay them down for him.
The importance of equalitarian element in socialisation process rests on altogether different grounds. There is free and spontaneous interaction, instead of coercion, among those who have equalitarian relationships. They view “the world through the same eyes,” share the same subjective attitudes and, consequently, have perfect “understanding” of one mother.
This applies to age mates, sex mates and class mates. They learn from one mother “small folkways, shades of meaning, fads and crazes, secret modes of gratification, and forbidden knowledge.” Some such knowledge is “often socially useful and yet socially abooed”.
Kingsley Davis has given the example of knowledge of sex which is supposed 10 remain a closed book until marriage. If this were followed, the problems of maladjustment and aberration of many kinds would not have been infrequent Fortunately, such knowledge is “transmitted as a part of the lore that passes from child to child”.
Agency # 3. The School:
When the child comes to the school, his formal indoctrination into the culture of the society begins. He is exposed to a wider background than hitherto known to him. He is formally introduced to the lore and the learning, the arts and the sciences, the values and the beliefs, the customs and taboos of the society from a wider circle, his teachers play a very significant role.
The child may admire, respect and love some of his teachers. The impression which they make during this impressionable age lasts almost throughout his life.
Agency # 4. The Books:
In literate societies another important agency of socialisation is the printed word in books and magazines. Our cultural world—experiences and knowledge, values and beliefs, superstitions and prejudices—is expressed in words.
“Words rush at us in torrent and cascade; they leap into our vision as in newspaper, magazine and textbook…… The words are always written by someone and these people too—authors and editors and advertisers— join the teachers, the peers and the parents in the socialisation process”.
Agency # 5. The Mass Media:
Apart from newspapers which carry printed words, the two other mass media, viz., the radio and television, exercise tremendous influence in the socialisation process. They “assault our ears” and communicate directly their messages and these messages also “contain in capsule form the premises of our culture, its attitudes and ideologies”.
The role of television, in particular, is very significant. It communicates directly to both our ears and eyes and thus leaves a strong impression.
In individual cases, of course, the importance of these influences varies. Different people react to the same suggestion differently. Responses vary in terms of their natural predilections. “Some of us respect tradition; others fear the opinion of their peers; and still others prefer to listen to the ‘thousand tongues’ of conscience”.
David Riesman has characterised the first group as ‘tradition-directed’, the second as ‘other directed’ and the third as ‘inner-directed’. While discussing the nature and impact of socialisation process, one cannot afford to ignore these innate characteristics of human nature.