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Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence

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This chapter examines the development and operation of socialization in the lives of children and adolescents, with a focus on the mechanisms and consequences of socialization. Consideration is given to theoretical perspectives on (a) how children and adolescents learn social roles, (b) the role of agency in social development, (c) the social contexts in which socialization occurs, (d) socialization over the life course, and (e) how socio-historical change influences the socialization process. Methods of research inquiry relevant to studies of young people are reviewed, including experiments, survey methods, observational and ethnographic research, interviewing, and mixed methods research. Importantly, the social contexts of socialization are examined including families; peer and social networks; schools and work; communities and neighborhoods; and social and cultural forces. Particular attention is paid to the influence of socialization on later experiences, including identity, behavioral, and educational outcomes. Emerging and suggested directions for future research are discussed. http://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007%2F978-94-007-6772-0_5
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SOCIALIZATION IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE
Lara Perez-Felkner1
Florida State University
Abstract:
This chapter examines the development and operation of socialization in the lives of
children and adolescents, with a focus on the mechanisms and consequences of
socialization. Consideration is given to theoretical perspectives on (a) how children and
adolescents learn social roles, (b) the role of agency in social development, (c) the social
contexts in which socialization occurs, (d) socialization over the life course, and (e) how
socio-historical change influences the socialization process. Methods of research inquiry
relevant to studies of young people are reviewed, including experiments, survey methods,
observational and ethnographic research, interviewing, and mixed methods research.
Importantly, the social contexts of socialization are examined including families; peer
and social networks; schools and work; communities and neighborhoods; and social and
cultural forces. Particular attention is paid to the influence of socialization on later
experiences, including identity, behavioral, and educational outcomes. Emerging and
suggested directions for future research are discussed.
Keywords:
Socialization, life course, childhood, adolescence, social context
Recommended Citation:
Perez-Felkner, L. (Forthcoming). Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence. In J.
DeLamater & A. Ward (Eds.), Handbook of Social Psychology, 2nd Edition: Springer
Publishing.
1 This research was supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Nos.
0815295 and 0129365 and DRL-1108778. The author has also been supported by a grant
from the American Educational Research Association, which receives funds for its
"AERA Grants Program" from the National Science Foundation under NSF Grant No.
DRL-0941014, and the Pathways to Adulthood Programme, which is supported by the
Jacobs Foundation. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations
expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views
of the National Science Foundation or other granting agencies. The author would like to
thank Suzanne Gaskins for her comments on an earlier draft, and Elizabeth Keating for
her assistance with literature searches for this manuscript. Corresponding author:
lperezfelkner@fsu.edu.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 2
SOCIALIZATION IN CHILDHOOD AND ADOLESCENCE
INTRODUCTION
Societies are shared communities with complex codes and organizational
structures. Socialization is the process by which individuals adapt to and internalize the
norms, values, customs, and behaviors of a shared social group (see Lutfey & Mortimer,
2006; Parsons, 1951). The degree to which children learn how to participate and be
accepted by society has important consequences for their development and future lives.
Importantly, the social codes that children and adolescents learn are specific not
only to nation-states and regions of the globe, but also to historical periods and social
groups within larger societies. The socio-historical context is a critical dimension of the
socialization of children and adolescents, both with respect to their status within society
(as compared to adults) as well as their social roles. For instance gender and race have
become less restrictive social categories in the past 50 years. However, these social
categories are still associated with different social norms and expectations, particularly
around schooling and careers. It is also vital to consider that individuals in the same
‘society’ do not necessarily share a sense of belonging to the dominant culture within that
group. While studies of socialization theory tend to emphasize the influence of ‘broader
society,’ individuals often experience simultaneous socialization pressures from the
dominant culture as well as from marginalized subcultures. Notably, research has
documented the socializing influence of adolescent peer cultures – and of their parent
cultures – in reproducing social class and other social divisions (S. Hall & Jefferson,
1976; Willis, 1977).
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 3
This chapter examines the mechanisms and consequences of socialization in
childhood and adolescence. The first section reviews socialization theory over the life
course. The second section reviews methods of research inquiry relevant to studies of
socialization. The third section details the contexts of socialization, moving from the
most proximal to the child to the farthest removed. Next, socialization is examined in
relation to its influence on later experiences, including identity development, behavior,
and education. Finally, directions for new research are discussed.
SOCIALIZATION THEORY
Theorizing Childhood and Adolescence
Theories of socialization have alternately framed children as being passive
recipients of socializing messages or active agents engaged in the process of adapting to
society (Corsaro, 2011). Passive socialization theories depict a malleable child who can
be molded to fit society. In Bronfenbrenner’s ecological model (1977), individuals
develop through the process of accommodation to their environmental contexts,
specifically concentric rings of influence, from family to neighborhoods and schools to
cultural forces in society. Pierre Bourdieu (1984) similarly presents individual
socialization as a process by which individuals are influenced by the class-specific
cultural milieu in which he or she is being reared: the tastes and ways of speaking and
acting that represent their habitus. In Bourdieu’s model, these class-specific preferences
and behaviors signify social class to others and in turn serve as a mechanism for
reinforcing rigidly stratified social status categories in certain societies, a phenomenon
known as social reproduction (Bourdieu, 2000; see also Chin & Phillips, 2004). In that
vein, Michel Foucault (1979) typically depicted socialization as a disciplining process
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 4
originating from a seemingly invisible power structure transmitting norm-enforcing
pressures which appear to permeate society and restrict individuals’ agency. Even
Foucault acknowledges that individuals are not mere objects shaped by society however,
but rather can enact their own subjectivities (Foucault, Martin, Gutman, & Hutton, 1988).
How socialization occurs. Theoretical and empirical work has shown that
socialization happens during interactions between young people and their environments
(e.g., Handel, Cahill, & Elkin, 2007; LeVine, 2003; Strayer & Santos, 1996).
Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory of human development (1979) frames the
child inside a series of concentric circles that represent different contexts of socialization.
Figure 1 summarizes his model. Society influences the child through the most immediate
contexts in which the child is present (microsystem) – the family, siblings, peer groups,
and classrooms; the contexts in which the microsystems meet (mesosystem) – e.g.,
parent-teacher relationships, parents’ work environments, and extended family networks;
the community context (exosystem) – e.g., schools, neighborhoods, local media, local
government; and the broader sociocultural context (macrosystem).
[INSERT FIGURE 1]
How children interpret these developmental contexts has been the focus of studies
of children’s social learning. Learning theories have been developed to explain how
children develop knowledge about the world, including the social world (e.g., Bandura,
1977). Extensive theoretical and empirical work has established that children learn
through play, not only cognitive skills, but social skills as well. More specifically, play is
a space for children to try on social roles and develop social meanings whether through
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 5
free play, games, or interactions with others (see Denzin, 2009, pp. 142-169; Lancy,
Bock, & Gaskins, 2011).
While there may be certain universal processes in human development, such as
play, cultures influence how children and adolescents learn about their world and make
their place in it (Rogoff, 2003). Play appears to operate similarly among children from
both dominant and non-dominant cultures and around the globe; however studies of
children’s play have uncovered nuanced differences in how children’s play is structured,
(Long, 2007). For example, the use of emotion appears more restrained in the pretend
play of children in Yucatec Maya families than in that of middle-class U.S. families
(Gaskins & Miller, 2009). Children’s social learning through play can occur in relations
with other children or adults (e.g., parents). However in traditional societies, children
seem to more commonly participate in play with other children than with parental
caregivers (Lancy, 2007). Notably, because middle class children in industrialized
societies are less likely to participate in practical activities (including work) than are
children in other societies and less advantaged socioeconomic groups, learning through
play takes on a more central role in the socialization process.
Symbolic interaction theory emphasizes the importance of how individuals
interpret their social worlds over the direct message inputs they receive from (adult)
society (G. H. Mead, 1934; Weber, 1968). For George Herbert Mead and other scholars
in this tradition, individuals engage in everyday processes of meaning-making,
developing their interpretations of symbols through communication with other social
actors (Blumer, 1986). Stated more plainly, individuals try on social roles that are
familiar to them, comparing themselves to a “generalized other” that serves as a symbol
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 6
of society and its norms and expectations (G. H. Mead, 1934). Children regularly engage
in socialization activities as well, as they play. In so doing, children learn to interpret
these social systems and accordingly develop their sense of self through the process of
interpreting social roles, which serve as symbols of society.
Socialization over the Life Course
Some scholars distinguish socialization by when it occurs during the life course
(e.g., Handel et al., 2007). Primary socialization occurs in childhood (generally, the span
between birth and puberty). Socialization does not cease at a fixed age however, but
rather continues over one’s lifetime. This later socialization has been referred to as
secondary socialization because it may be less influential than that which occurs during
childhood.
Stage theories. Early theories of human development framed childhood and
adolescence as distinct stages of life, with distinct challenges and goals to complete on
the linear path from infancy to old age. Particularly well known examples are Sigmund
Freud’s psychosexual stage theory, Erik Erikson’s psychosocial stages of development,
and Jean Piaget’s stages of cognitive development. These stage theories tend to be
closely associated with biological time and depict normative patterns of development.
Freud’s (2009 [1915]) psychosexual stage development theory emerged from his
clinical case studies. He presents a series of developmental stages in which children
encounter challenges or fixations – that have to be overcome in order to progress to the
next stage and a healthy adulthood more generally. Freud’s stages begin with the oral
stage in infancy and continue through the anal (1 to 3 years), phallic (3 to 6 years),
latency (6 to puberty), and genital stages (puberty onward). Unresolved fixations in these
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 7
stages were presumed to contribute to personality psychoses, such as dependency on
others for those not resolving the oral stage and cleanliness and control for those not
resolving anal stage. Freud’s theory has received both methodological and feminist
critiques over the years (most notably, focused on Freud’s depiction of the phallic stage),
but it remains alive in our scientific and cultural consciousness. Subsequent stage theories
build upon Freud’s model.
Erikson (1950) posits eight psychosocial stages of development, or ages of man,
borrowing some of Freud’s language but focusing more closely on how individuals relate
to themselves versus others in their world. These stages are presented in terms of
conflicts and questions. The psychosocial stages of development begin with (1) basic trust
vs. basic mistrust (infancy) and move through (2) autonomy vs. shame and doubt (early
childhood), (3) initiative vs. guilt, (4) industry vs. inferiority (school age), (5) identity vs.
role confusion (puberty and adolescence), (6) intimacy vs. isolation (young adulthood),
(7) generativity vs. stagnation (mature adulthood), and (8) ego integrity vs. despair (later
life). This conceptualization closely considers adult development as well as development
in childhood. Erikson considers generativity, if achieved, a particularly important turning
point in which individuals focus attention on others by training – and socializing the
next generation, and caring for others more generally. The emphasis – as in Freud’s
model – is on how development comprises a series of challenges and tasks that need to be
resolved in order to transition into a healthy adulthood.
Three other stage theories of human development bear mention here, focusing on
cognitive and moral development. Piaget (2000) conducted experiments with children
and adolescents to investigate their cognitive development. He presents the following
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 8
stages of cognitive development: (1) sensorimotor, in which infants and toddlers explore
the world, primarily from an egocentric perspective; (2) the preoperational stage, in
which young children further develop motor skills and begin to weaken their egocentric
focus; (3) concrete operational stage, in which children develop logic but cannot yet
reason abstractly; and (4) formal operational stage, in which older children and
adolescents can think abstractly and from a non-egocentric perspective. Kohlberg (2012)
expanded on Piaget’s notions of egocentric and non-egocentric reasoning in his theory of
moral development, emphasizing the development of moral reasoning. Based on his
studies of how boys respond to morally ambiguous problems,2 his six stages of moral
development explain how children initially rely on caregiver’s moral authority, gradually
internalize and understand of their societies’ norms and values, and may eventually
develop their own independent moral compass. Kohlberg concludes that about ¼ of the
population does not reach the highest (sixth) level of moral reasoning, and women in
particular tended not to be in that most morally sophisticated grouping. In response,
Gilligan (2008) critiqued Kohlberg and his predecessors’ theories, claiming that they fail
to correctly interpret gendered differences in females’ response to moral dilemmas. She
charged that Freud and Kohlberg miss the mark in concluding that women have a weaker
sense of morality; rather, the previous theorists did not capture the importance of care in
their instruments, an important dimension of women’s moral reasoning. This controversy
2 For instance, in one scenario known as the Heinz scenario, respondents are presented with the case of a
financially-strapped husband who can save his terminally ill wife by stealing an expensive drug. They are
asked to offer their responses to whether he should pursue the criminal option and how police and justices
should respond to his potential crime, and to explain their reasoning.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 9
illustrates the importance of carefully examining gender and other group-level variation
in social development and in the outcomes of socialization.
Overall, these stage theories contribute to our understanding of how children
interact with the social world in their development, over the early and later life course.
These conceptualizations also have recognized shortcomings however. While highly cited
and frequently taught in university classrooms, they have each received notable
methodological critiques, primarily centered on research design issues (e.g., Freud’s
convenience clinical samples and Kohlberg’s cross-sectional rather than longitudinal
data). Moreover, in presenting development as a linear and sequential process attached to
specific ages, these theories simplify the variation that occurs across even healthy and
normal children and adolescents with respect to their completion of these stages.
Furthermore, individuals’ social development may correspond to biological life changes
such as physical maturation, but comparative research reveals how social development is
also specific to cultural and socio-historical contexts.
Social-historical time. Social expectations for children and adolescents are not
universal and are subject to change. The social and cultural contexts in which individuals
are reared can have important consequences for shaping a generation of youth
(Mannheim, 1952). Social change can alter age norms, relations between age groups, and
the boundaries of life stages such as childhood, adolescence, and old age (Neugarten,
1974). Life course sociologists such as Elder and Neugarten have argued for the
importance of examining cohorts as units of analysis, as they experience a specific
configuration of socio-historical conditions that influence the timing of their life
transitions (e.g., wars, recessions, social revolutions) and take into account shifts in the
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 10
ideal normative life timelines (e.g., Elder, 1975; Neugarten & Datan, 1996; Neugarten &
Hagestad, 1976). Human development is neither one-dimensional nor one-directional, nor
does it have fixed ends (R. A. Settersten, 2003). While socialization theory and research
crosses age categories, it can be helpful to consider socialization processes in children
and adolescence separately to unpack distinctions.
Children. How societies view children has varied over time, within and across
cultures. It has been argued that in the West, perspectives on childhood can be divided
into three major historical periods: the premodern period, which focused on preparation
for adulthood (through the mid-1700s); the modern period in which childhood and
adolescence gained societal attention (through the 1940s), and postmodern period in
which children and youth were identified as consumers with their own cultures and
desires independent of adults (Mintz, 2004).
Ariès (1965) famously argued that in Europe, outside of the aristocracy,
childhood did not emerge as a social category whose members were to be coddled,
morally trained, or defended until after the Middle Ages. Recent historical studies of
childhood, however, have challenged the notion that children were not held in high
regard (Hanawalt, 1995; Pollock, 1983). While historians may dispute whether childhood
was a socially valued category prior to modern times, it does seem clear that children
were considered economically valuable commodities. Industrialization and urbanization
fostered social changes that shifted how adults viewed children, who were not yet
mandated to attend extensive years of schooling, but rather tended to be conscripted into
economic labor in homes, farms, shops, and factories (Kett, 1977; Modell & Goodman,
1990). Since then, children have increasingly occupied the more protected role of the
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 11
object of adults’ sentimental attention and economic consumption in democratic societies
(Zelizer, 1994).
Post-modern concerns over children’s well-being and protection have fostered
greater attention to children’s rights around the globe (e.g., Rosen, 2007). Recent
research has particularly focused on the impacts of public health crises, poverty, and
violent conflict on the lives of children. For example, the HIV/AIDS crisis in southern
African nations such as Botswana has fostered conflicting spheres of socialization for
orphans being reared in part in western non-governmental organizations with different
norms for children’s behavior than those typical in Botswana families (Dahl, 2009).
Recently, a “new” sociology of childhood has emerged. This scholarship aims to
elevate the status of research on childhood. “New” childhood scholars argue that children
are agentic beings and should be framed as such in research (King, 2007; Pufall &
Unsworth, 2004). More specifically, this literature breaks from a focus on how children
are socialized into future adults, focusing rather on childhood as a topic worthy of serious
study, not merely as a stage on the path to adulthood (see James, Jenks, & Prout, 2005;
Matthews, 2007). This shift in how children are theorized in research characterizes
childhood as a socially constructed category that is understood differently over time
(Handel et al., 2007, pp. 17-18).
Adolescence. Perspectives on the stage known as adolescence have similarly
varied historically and socially. While cultures near-universally recognize and mark the
shift from child to adult, this transition into a liminal space outside of these more defined
categories may be confined to rites of passage (see Turner, 1969; van Gennep, 1961) or
alternatively occur over protracted periods lasting years, known as the stage of
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 12
“adolescence” (see Erikson, 1950; G. S. Hall, 1904). Adolescence was first identified by
G. Stanley Hall (1904), who characterized young people in this stage as experiencing
emotional, behavioral, and physiological upheaval as they experience the biological
transition from childhood to adulthood (i.e., puberty).
This experience of storm and stress was argued to be less prevalent in traditional
societies like that of Samoa, in which adolescents were less socially and sexually
regulated than their contemporary peers in the U.S. and northern Europe (M. Mead,
1928). The level of stress experienced during adolescent years seems to be influenced by
the social and historical contexts of human development. Adolescence as a phenomenon
emerged after industrialization and an elongated span of compulsory schooling began to
cluster young people together in urban areas. With growing independence from their
families, young people were left increasingly free to engage in political revolutions,
crime and deviance, and loosen their sexual mores (Kett, 1977). However, globalization
has influenced social changes in the life course across nations, such that adolescence as a
stage of life is increasingly being experienced by young people outside of the West
(Larson & Wilson, 2004; Shanahan, 2000).
The transition to adulthood tends to be marked by a time (e.g., a few weeks or a
few years) spent primarily with same-gender age-mates, under the guardianship of select
same-gender adults who mentor youth about the coming adult stage of life (van Gennep,
1961). A physical ritual such as circumcision or face markings might mark the end of
childhood, with adults bearing physical markers of their adult status. Rites of passage
also accompany the path to adulthood in Western societies (e.g., school graduations and
religious rites such as the Bar/Bat Mitzvah and Confirmation), but these ceremonies do
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 13
not signify a final transition to adulthood. Rather, in Western societies, each of these rites
serves as one of a number of milestones along the way that young people may
experience, such as: a first paycheck; certification to drive a car; a coming-out
(debutante, Quinceañera, or Sweet 16) party; first intercourse; leaving the family to enlist
in the military or enroll in college; and marriage. The duration of adolescence varies
across cultures as well as with socio-historical change.
Social change and the transition to adulthood. Developmental tasks that seem
normative in our society at the present could shift in response to large-scale social
changes. Keniston and Cottle (1972) argued that extended education, labor changes, and
the emergence of a generation gap in social values fostered a new stage of life in between
adolescence and adulthood, which they called “youth,” exemplified by not getting
married, remaining in school, and not settling into a permanent job in their early twenties.
They characterized this as a “stretched” or “protracted adolescence” (p. 634)(p. 634)(p.
634 ), during which youth may experience estrangement or alienation from the larger
society. About thirty years later, a similar pattern of behavior was identified and labeled
“emerging adulthood,” whereby education and labor norms again are associated with
delayed marriage, childbearing, and commitment to a career (Arnett, 2000). It remains
unclear whether these patterns are normative or cyclical, and to what degree this behavior
is being spread across the middle and upper-middle classes of the world’s youth (e.g.,
Larson & Wilson, 2004; Liechty, 2003).
It is certain however that “normal” adolescence and transition to adulthood vary
across social time, across subgroups, and across cultures (Schoon, McCulloch, Joshi,
Wiggins, & Bynner, 2001; Shanahan, 2000). Social and economic conditions can change
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 14
normative patterns in young people’s transitions from childhood to adulthood. Societal
challenges such as poverty and violence can constrain youths’ ability to develop
independence and meet traditional age markers, disrupting the possibility of occupying
traditional adult roles (Cole, 2011). Meanwhile, the introduction of global capitalism can
similarly alter traditional norms for youth and foster rejection of traditional lifestyles in
favor of desires for Western-influenced status items: from styles of dress to educational
and career attainment (Liechty, 2003).
Economic and societal changes can disrupt normative pathways to adulthood
(e.g., Cole, 2005). For example, departure from the family home – and other such
markers of adulthood – can be shaped not only by age norms but also by economic shifts
(Billari & Liefbroer, 2007; R. A. Settersten, Jr., 1998). Indeed, norms and pressures on
the timing of departure from the family home have been found to be culturally- and
historically-specific (Holdsworth, 2000). For this and other reasons, it is especially
important to use careful and rigorous methods to understand the development of young
people, and how various forces in their lives socially influence their development.
METHODS OF INQUIRY FOR STUDYING YOUNG PEOPLE
This section summarizes the most common methods for studying children and
adolescence and explores the ethical and logistical challenges of conducting careful and
meaningful studies of young people. In line with the new sociology of childhood,
scholars are increasingly designing their research to glean children’s perspectives and
voices (e.g., Hagerman, 2010; Winkler, 2010). Most of these studies are primarily
ethnographic and/or interview-based in nature (e.g., Corsaro, 2003). Nevertheless, this
concern with more accurately representing children in research can extend across
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 15
methodological designs (see Clark, 2010), and will likely have consequences on the use
and design of even those traditionally more restrictive methodological approaches,
including survey questionnaires.
Experiments
The classic scientific technique, experiments compare two or more groups of
children with matched characteristics that differ on the experimental treatment condition
(e.g., salience of gender in a test-taking setting). Experiments usually occur in laboratory
settings, but circumstances sometimes allow for natural experiments. For example, two
neighboring school districts with similar demographic characteristics have different
levels of exposure to an educational policy (e.g., a mandate that students complete four
years of high school mathematics). Comparing students from these districts (or
comparing students in the same schools before and after the policy goes into effect)
would constitute a natural experiment. Experimental methods in laboratory settings have
facilitated seminal research on children’s social development (e.g., Niu & Tienda).
Experimental methods in natural settings may be impractical or logistically challenging
for researchers to conduct, sometimes because of limited resources and other times
because of ethical considerations (e.g., offering beneficial programs to one group but not
another). For these and other reasons, many researchers use alternative methods for their
research.
Survey Methods
Survey methods continue to be a primary method of data collection and analysis
for the study of socialization among children and adolescents, even for the study of
young children. These quantitative methods may focus on select populations, such as the
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 16
Children of Immigrants Longitudinal Study (CILS) (Portes & Rumbaut, 2012).
Alternatively, they may aim to represent a snapshot of a nation’s youth. These studies
may follow cohorts of young people over time. Studies focused on early childhood may
start from birth or earlier, as with the National Children’s Study (NCS, following children
from birth through age 21) and the Early Childhood Longitudinal Program (ECLS,
following children from birth through kindergarten and kindergarten through fifth grade).
Other studies might focus on adolescence (e.g., Childhood and Beyond (CAB)) or
transitions from adolescence to adulthood (e.g., the Education Longitudinal Study of
2002 (ELS)).
Most studies of young children tend to rely on responses from caregivers rather
than from the child directly. There are multiple reasons for this. In addition to concerns
about ethics in research on young children, survey methods need to be carefully tailored
to children’s comprehension level. One recent research methodology paper uses Piaget’s
stages as a guide, explaining that young (preoperational) children’s ongoing cognitive
and language development necessitate simple and careful wording that corresponds to
words and expressions children use, limits problems of literal interpretation of questions,
limits suggestibility, and holds their attention (Borgers, de Leeuw, & Hox, 2000). These
ideas are echoed in a recent paper on child computer interaction (CCI) describing
successful survey techniques that are ‘fun, fast, and fair’, based on analyses of studies
using ‘The Fun Toolkit’ aimed at children age four and older which assesses children’s
opinions using a smiley face scale and a picture-oriented rating of the level of fun of an
activity and whether they would like to do the activity again (Gamoran & Long, 2007).
The simplicity of the fun toolkit questions suggests the limited nature of the responses
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 17
one can glean from surveys in which young children are the respondents. There is also
the issue of potential bias inherent in using smiley faces and ‘fun’ ratings to evaluate
children’s emotional states (see also Gamoran & Long, 2007, p. 127). Nevertheless, there
is certainly value in being able to quantitatively evaluate children’s responses, perhaps in
conjunction with responses from caregivers and teachers, and potential for the growth of
child-friendly survey methods.
There are certain advantages to the use of survey methodology in research on
childhood and adolescence. Surveys are a tool aimed at efficiently collecting comparable
data of a sample representative of a subset of the population, or even the population itself
as is found in census data. Because the data from many of these major studies are widely
available and the items are considered reliable, extensive research on childhood and
adolescence has utilized this information. Such research has furthered our understandings
of patterns of socialization and their outcomes, such as how socially-influenced
subjective experiences can influence female and male adolescents’ educational and career
attainment (Perez-Felkner, McDonald, Schneider, & Grogan, 2012).
This method also presents limitations. Sample selection, item design, and
nonresponse biases are common challenges that need to be considered carefully by
researchers engaged in primary or secondary survey data analysis (see Fowler, 2009).
Additionally, because closed-coded questionnaire items are intended to be generalizable,
the range of responses and interpretations that can be gleaned from these items is severely
restricted. Furthermore, respondents from different cultures, social class backgrounds,
and ethnicities can often have different understandings of the question resulting in
significantly different tendencies in their responses. This may speak more to biases
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 18
inherent in how the question is interpreted than in true differences across social groups
(see Wang, Willett, & Eccles, 2011).
On a final note, surveys observe individual respondents at one moment in time,
but the feelings and friend groups of children and adolescents vary even over short
windows of observation, depending on their context. The Experience Sampling Method
(ESM) is one means of addressing this limitation. This method probes students for
responses in real-time eight times per day over a one to two week period in different
settings, often using a mobile electronic device (see Csíkszentmihályi & Larson, 1987),
and has been used effectively in studies of adolescent development (e.g., Barbara L.
Schneider, 1997). Additionally, the internet has expanded opportunities to conduct
surveys capturing young people’s experiences.
Ethnographic and Observation Research
Scholars interested in capturing the cultures and voices of adolescents often use
observation research, including participant observation or ethnography. Pure observation
studies may use video or audio recordings to observe and then code the behaviors of
children, for example, in interaction with their caregivers and with other children.
Scholars looking to improve the quality of data on children’s aggressive behavior during
school recess installed wireless microphones and video cameras to observe aggressive
and non-aggressive children on the school playground (Pepler & Craig, 1995).
Observation studies can occur in laboratories or natural settings, with groups or mother-
child dyads (e.g., Morris et al., 2011; Strayer & Santos, 1996). Observation studies can
also follow children over time, for example over a school year (Meyer, Cash, &
Mashburn, 2011; Plank, 2000). Some observation researchers employ quantitative
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 19
methods to assess their observation data (see P. R. Martin & Bateson, 1993). Bakeman
and colleagues have used systematic sequential analysis to compare children’s behavior
over time and use behaviors at Time 1 to predict later behaviors (Bakeman & Quera,
2011).
While pure observation has its strengths, direct engagement with children and
adolescents can help researchers access how children and youth construct meanings from
their social worlds and yield deeper understandings of socialization processes. Clifford
Geertz (1973) famously explains that simple behaviors (e.g., winks) can have complex
meanings that can only be understood if the researcher also understands the culture in
which that behavior occurs. Ethnographers position themselves in a research site as active
participants in that setting (e.g., volunteer teachers in schools or temporary additions to a
family) to gain firsthand knowledge of a specific culture as a first-hand participant (e.g.,
Briggs, 1970). They take copious field notes to document interactions they observe in the
setting, and then code those interactions to analyze themes in the data (Emerson, Fretz, &
Shaw, 1995). Corsaro has produced numerous ethnographic accounts of children’s peer
culture in pre-school classrooms in the U.S. and other countries (e.g., Italy). In these
studies, he positions himself as a “friend” and is brought into children’s play activities
within that role (e.g., Corsaro, 2003, 2011). These methods can be used to interpret
children’s socialization behavior across cultures (Gaskins, Miller, & Corsaro, 1992).
Interviewing
Interview methods may be used independently or in conjunction with other
methods (e.g., ethnographic studies). Interviews are intended to capture how respondents
understand the world, and vary on their levels of structure and formality (see Weiss,
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 20
1994). Informal interviews may occur within the context of an ongoing ethnographic
study. For example, Corsaro (2003) asked child respondents questions within the context
of participant observations about how children were learning about their social roles in
the context of peer activities. Alternately, interviews may be formal – permission
requested in advance, questions and responses audio and/or video-recorded, and
responses transcribed for later analysis. Formal interviews may be more appropriate for
older children and adolescents, because of the concerns raised in the above section on
survey methods. It may be appropriate to the research question to interview multiple
respondents at once, using a focus group. For example, in a study of child and youth
socialization in post-conflict Mozambique, focus groups were used in the context of an
ethnographic study to elicit candid responses about young people’s feelings about
reconciliation with those with whom they had been at war (Orfield, 1988).
Interview research shares potential limitations with surveys, in that question and
sample design are important factors in the quality of the data. Conversely, interview
research shares some limitations with ethnographic work. The respondent is presented in
relation to the interviewer, therefore the biases held by and elicited by the interviewer are
important considerations (Cody, Davis, & Wilson, 2010).
Mixed methods research. Increasingly, scholars are using multiple methods to
understand the development of children and adolescents. For example, systematic social
observation from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods
employed video observations of communities and longitudinal surveys of children and
their families, using this data to inform our understanding of how neighborhoods
influence children (Sampson, Morenoff, & Felton, 1999). A recent study triangulated
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 21
multi-wave survey, interview, and participant observation data examining social
dimensions of high-aspiring ethnic minority adolescents’ pathways to college (Perez-
Felkner, 2009). More commonly, researchers combine informal or formal interview
methods with observation research, such as the Corsaro and Errante studies noted above.
One notable study used interviews of schoolchildren and their parents in concert with
classroom observations to learn about how families shape children’s schooling
experiences (Lareau, 2003). Another combined ethnographic accounts of classroom
behavior with interviews to explain the emergence of student resistance in classrooms
(McFarland, 2004).
CONTEXTS OF SOCIALIZATION
Families
Early socialization is thought to occur primarily within the family (Grusec, 2011).
Psychologists have tended to emphasize socialization within the parent-child relationship,
with particular attention on mother-child dyads (e.g., Gardner, Ward, Burton, & Wilson,
2003; Spinrad et al., 2007). Extensive research, in fields ranging from psychology to
anthropology, has documented how families prepare children for the social world around
them. Research on emotion socialization serves as an example. Briggs’ ethnographic
study (1970) detailed how Inuit families train their children to learn to regulate their
emotional behavior to more socially-acceptable forms specifically in this case,
prohibiting displays of anger. Recent research similarly finds that families serve as an
important context for emotion socialization, across cultures (Friedlmeier, Corapci, &
Cole, 2011) and within cultures, such as the United States (e.g., Hunter et al., 2011).
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 22
Importantly, families also influence their children’s orientations toward education.
Adolescents with parents who engaged them in discussions about school tended to have
higher educational expectations and performance (Juang & Silbereisen, 2002). Parents’
high expectations for their children seem to promote high academic performance (Pong,
Hao, & Gardner, 2005). Although the effects of parent involvement on adolescents’
academic performance appear to wane over the course of high school (Muller, 1998), it
does seem clear that family background and parents’ expectations in particular
promote adolescents’ own educational and career expectations and later attainment
(Hauser, Tsai, & Sewell, 1983).
The influence of significant others’ expectations seems to vary among youth by
their racial-ethnic group membership. High expectations may be more powerful when
communicated by specific family members. Notably, the expectations held by Asian and
Latino mothers and African American fathers seem to have weaker effects than those
held by either the other parent or – for Latino and African American adolescents – those
in their extended family network (Simon & Starks, 2002).3 While Latino parents highly
value education, research suggests that their expectations may be shaped by their child’s
academic performance in school (Goldenberg, Gallimore, Reese, & Garnier, 2001). This
and other research demonstrate that children can influence their parents’ socializing
beliefs and practices (see e.g., Offer & Schneider, 2007). Families are not isolates
3 Variation by social class, race-ethnicity, and gender with respect to education and
careers will be discussed more extensively later in this chapter.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 23
however. Early socialization in the family functions in conjunction with other
developmental contexts, such as schools and religious organizations (Bronfenbrenner,
1986; Eccles et al., 1993).
Friendships, Peer Groups, Subcultures, and Social Networks
Research on adolescence and youth has historically had a strong focus on
adolescent subcultures, in particular after the youth movements of the 1960s (Clarke,
Hall, Jefferson, & Roberts, 1975; Fine & Kleinman, 1979; Yinger, 1960). Examinations
of the influence of friendships and peer groups on children and adolescents have a long
tradition as well, and research continues to document their impact on socialization (e.g.,
Antonio, 2004; Crosnoe, 2000; Giordano, Cernkovich, & Holland, 2003). The nature of
this influence may vary depending on the quality of the friendship and the characteristics
of these friends (Hartup, 1996). During adolescence, young people often begin to affiliate
with a larger peer group or “crowd” that is affiliated with particular identity types, which
seem to wane in importance as young people move through adolescence and develop a
stronger sense of identity independent of the crowd (Brown, Eicher, & Petrie, 1986).
Young people who are actively engaged in school and school activities may have more
positive adjustment than those who focus their energies on acceptance by the group
(Barber, Eccles, & Stone, 2001; Feldman & Matjasko, 2005).
Increasingly, researchers have highlighted the role of social networks as
socializing contexts for children and adolescents (see Barbara L. Schneider, Ford, &
Perez-Felkner, 2010). Advances in data quality, analytic tools, and theory have facilitated
growth in the use of these methods to examine the structure of social ties and how these
ties emerge (see Carrington, Scott, & Wasserman, 2005). This research can explain how
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 24
adolescents’ networks influence academic, health, and relational behavior, using the
comprehensive network data available in studies such as the National Longitudinal Study
of Adolescent Health Study (AddHealth) (e.g., Frank et al., 2008; Kreager, 2004).
Notably, social norms among adolescents’ peer network members their same-gender
peers in particular – appears to shape high school students’ decisions about course taking
(and presumably) later career pathways (Frank et al., 2008).
Parents’ social networks matter as well. For instance, family caregivers meet
formal caregivers in childcare centers and schools and, perhaps more interestingly, may
develop social relationships among one another that can be instrumental in sharing
resources and knowledge about the care of their children. A careful case study of parents
who use New York City area daycare centers reveals that differences in the level of
opportunities for parent interaction fosters unequal access among parents to these
resource gains (Small, 2009). Similarly, school parents who engage in social networks
organized around surveillance of the quality of teachers’ instruction appear to gain both
knowledge about their child’s experience in the classroom and influence over the teacher
that they may be able to leverage to improve their child’s position in the class (McGhee
Hassrick & Schneider, 2009).
Schools, Schooling, and Work
Schools are a primary site for socialization for children and adolescents in
particular, for whom relationships with individuals outside of the home gain increasing
importance (Eccles & Roeser, 2011; Barbara L. Schneider et al., 2010). Although
schooling structures can be sites in which adolescents are socialized to reproduce existing
social class hierarchies (Bourdieu, 2000; Willis, 1977), they are also mechanisms for
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 25
upward mobility. In particular, school social contexts have been found to be critically
important sites for socialization towards schooling and career, with consequences for
students’ educational outcomes (Hallinan, 2006; Stanton-Salazar & Spina, 2000).
The relationships children form through school have been theorized to be
instrumental in their access to resources and supports that, transmitted through these
relationships, can foster the realization of academic and career goals. The quality of these
relationships has proven to be an important factor in youths’ academic achievement
(Bryk & Schneider, 2002; Crosnoe, Johnson, & Elder, 2004). Within schools, students
and school staff exchange social capital – primarily, norms, expectations, and sanctions –
to improve students’ educational outcomes (Coleman, 1988). Access to these resources is
complicated by racial, ethnic, and class differences which may exclude underrepresented
families from building these ties with teachers and highly educated families (Carter,
2003; Lareau & Horvat, 1999; Ream, 2005).
High school students’ pathways to college and careers may be particularly
influenced by their teachers, peers, and other school actors (e.g., coaches, extracurricular
advisors, principals, counselors). When youth perceive others’ expectations of their
underachievement based on their race, they may adjust their self-concepts and lower their
ambitions (Eccles, Wong, & Peck, 2006; O'Connor, 1999). (See discussion of Steele’s
work, below.) Alternatively, should minority students perceive that these individuals care
about their futures, this belief may sustain their motivation during academically and
personally challenging periods in their pursuit of higher education (Perez-Felkner, under
review).
Communities and Neighborhoods
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 26
Many youth and their families are actively engaged in community- and religious-
based organizations and activities which can serve as major sites for socialization (Arum,
2000). Involvement in these activities appears to promote adolescents’ political, religious,
and occupational identity achievement (Hardy, Pratt, Pancer, Olsen, & Lawford, 2011).
Notably, Flanagan and colleagues (1998) find that participation in community service
activities also appears to promote social responsibility and civic engagement. Many
middle and upper class youth are exposed to these service opportunities through their
religious organizations and youth groups (see Youniss, McLellan, & Yates, 1999). Civic
engagement in turn is associated with positive youth development, but opportunities
appear to be less available to young people from low-income and minority backgrounds
who experience cumulative disadvantages at home, at school, and in their communities
(C. Flanagan & Levine, 2010).
Although methods and theory for assessing the causal mechanisms by which
neighborhoods influence children’s outcomes remain underdeveloped, there is consensus
that neighborhoods do matter and indeed shape children’s outcomes (Ellen & Turner,
1997; Leventhal & Brooks-Gunn, 2000). Neighborhoods with low levels of trust might
reproduce this mistrust in children and foster behavior problems, as was found in a study
of 241 African American first grade students (Caughy, Nettles, O'Campo, & Lohrfink,
2006). It has been argued that social trust is lower in African American neighborhoods
that are associated with high levels of crime and disorder (Sampson, Morenoff, &
Gannon-Rowley, 2002; Taub, Taylor, & Dunham, 1984). Small (2002, 2007) argues that
poverty is the primary driver of inequalities in disadvantaged neighborhoods, which have
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 27
more limited organizations in which residents (including youth) could participate and
build community (see C. Flanagan & Levine, 2010).4
The relative dearth of productive community spaces for youth in disadvantaged
neighborhoods may contribute to greater levels of delinquency and problem behavior in
those neighborhoods. Using nationally representative longitudinal data and interviews of
adolescent boys in Boston, Harding (2007) argues that older neighborhood peers are a
primary source of socialization for adolescent boys in disadvantaged neighborhoods, and
these older boys may expose them to local and at times violent cultural models for
behavior. Anderson (1990) describes how the concentration of poverty, urban blight, and
lack of labor market opportunities in inner cities can be partially attributed to the
disappearance of older male role models who had been primary enforcers of moral
socialization around family and career (see also Wilson, 1996). Sampson and colleagues
4 U.S. neighborhoods remain heavily racially and socioeconomically segregated ((Perez-
Felkner, Felkner, Taub, & Papachristos, under review)As students’ entry into public
schools continues to be based primarily on neighborhood residence, these segregation
patterns are perpetuated in school ((Frankenberg, Lee, & Orfield, 2003)For these reasons
as well as homophily – the phenomenon of individuals preferring to form relationships
with individuals they perceive as similar ((McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001)-- it
is difficult to disentangle the distinct impacts of race and class, and both continue to be
consequential in shaping the neighborhood, school, and peer contexts of young people’s
lives.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 28
find that families in predominantly black and disadvantaged neighborhoods in Chicago
have weaker intergenerational ties with neighbors, appearing to result in fewer
opportunities for children to engage in positive social capital exchanges with adults in
their community as compared with children in predominantly white Chicago
neighborhoods (Sampson et al., 1999). Inequalities in children’s socialization experiences
are socially reproduced through cumulative advantages and disadvantages that are made
manifest in studies of their neighborhood and community contexts.
Social and Cultural Forces
Cultural Variation. Cultural forces shape young people’s future selves as well.
For over a century, researchers have understood that childhood and adolescence appear
quite different depending on the cultural context in which youth reside. Margaret Mead
compared cross-cultural differences in the experience of storm and stress among Western
adolescents and adolescents in Samoa (M. Mead, 1928). This early work problematized
scholars’ dependence on Western models of the life course. Globalization
notwithstanding, childhood and adolescence continue to look and be experienced
differently around the globe, depending on individuals’ social(izing) contexts (Bühler-
Niederberger, 2010; Larson & Wilson, 2004), as discussed more extensively in Chapter
XX.
Mass and Social Media. The media has had a considerable socializing role on
children and adolescents’ development. Media such as popular music, television, and
movies socialize individuals into consumers of certain kinds of identities, lifestyles, and
aspirations (McRobbie, 1999). Mainstream media can facilitate the spread of normative
values, desires, and beliefs that may inhibit young people’s healthy development. For
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 29
example, images of African Americans and Latinos continue to be racially charged and
stereotypical in nature with respect to both race and gender (see e.g., Rodriguez, 2004),
and have negative consequences on the racial and gender socialization of adolescents
from minority communities (Littlefield, 2008). Mainstream media – including video
games may promote the sexual objectification of women (Dill & Thill, 2007) and in
turn females may internalize these gender stereotypes which negatively affect their
female self-concept (Behm-Morawitz & Mastro, 2009). A recent report from the
American Psychological Association (2007) defines sexualization as being distinct from
healthy sexuality, and develops when one or more of the following conditions is present:
(a) they come to believe that their value is determined by their sexual appeal or sexual
behavior; (b) they deem physical attractiveness to be aligned with sexual attractiveness;
(c) they are viewed as a sexual object by others, and/or (d) they inappropriately or
prematurely have sexuality imposed on them by others. Indeed, research evidence
suggests that media can influence the sexualization of youth to more stereotypical and
casual attitudes toward teen and general sexual behavior (L’Engle, Brown, & Kenneavy,
2006; Ward, 2003).
THE INFLUENCE OF SOCIALIZATION ON LATER LIFE EXPERIENCES
Adolescent Identity
While childhood is largely known as a period of developing physical, emotional,
and behavioral competencies, the central task of adolescence has been characterized as
having a more conscious focus. Erikson (1958, p. 14) suggests that adolescents are tasked
to develop “some central perspective and direction, some working unity, out of the
effective remnants of his childhood and the hopes of his anticipated adulthood.” Erikson
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 30
refers to this process as an identity crisis, from which an individual “must detect some
meaningful resemblance between what he has come to see in himself and what his
sharpened awareness tells him others judge and expect him to be” (1958, p. 14). By this
logic, an individual’s attainment of a whole and unified identity is the path towards a
healthy and well-adapted adulthood (Erikson, 1950). Erikson acknowledges however that
young people do not forge their path in isolation. Rather, this process occurs in the
context of not only their family but also their conception of the values and ideal
“prototypes” of the larger society, to which they aspire to reconcile themselves (Erikson,
1994, p. 128).
Marcia (1966) developed a related model, formulating four paths of ego-identity
status with respect to career and ideology affiliations. Foreclosure refers to a
commitment (e.g., to a career path) that occurs without exploration. Adolescents in this
status tend to be responding directly to socialization pressures without having developed
a sense of whether this identity is appropriate for them. Foreclosed adolescents may be
susceptible to dissatisfaction later in life because of not developing their own identity.
Other adolescents may be in a state of identity diffusion, neither exploring nor committing
to an identity. Some may go on to explore and commit to identity areas later, while some
remain in this diffuse status. Adolescents in moratorium are those engaged in identity
search – and potentially in identity crisis, a state that can generate anxiety. Identity
achievement is marked by resolution of identity moratorium, whereby adolescents have
selected commitments of their choosing – perhaps influenced by but not directed by the
expectations of society.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 31
The models of identity development described above were developed in the U.S.
with frameworks based on advantaged white males (see Erikson, 1950; Marcia, 1966).
Notwithstanding, empirical studies using on Erikson and Marcia’s theoretical models of
identity development have been conducted around the globe with culturally diverse
populations. These analyses have found overall support for these models (e.g., Busch &
Hofer, 2011).
Identity development among marginalized youth.
While adolescents are tasked to develop a sense of self within the context of
society as a whole, they may be simultaneously integrating particular dimensions of their
identity with their internalized sense of society’s expectations for them. Adolescents who
identify with a marginalized group —like racial-ethnic and sexual minority youths, for
example—may be particularly likely to experience this phenomenon. With respect to
racial-ethnic minorities, W.E.B. Du Bois (1903) maintained that African Americans
experience a double consciousness in which they view themselves simultaneously
through their own eyes and those of white society. Phinney and colleagues extended
Erikson’s identity development framework to include ethnic identity development, under
which an ethnic identity crisis might emerge, should ethnic minority youth develop
strong and stable affiliations with their ethnic group but not with the dominant culture, or
vice versa (J. Phinney, 1992; J. S. Phinney, Cantu, & Kurtz, 1997).
Ethnic and racial identity. In the U.S. and other countries, racial and ethnic
minority group members tend to experience distinct patterns particular to their social
position. These socializing patterns are derived from cultural beliefs and individuals both
inside and outside their group. Ethnic and racial socialization has been associated with
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 32
young people’s well-being as well as educational and career pathways (O'Connor, 1999;
Ogbu & Fordham, 1986; Steele, Spencer, & Aronson, 2002). As understood by
sociologists since the early twentieth century (e.g., Thomas & Znaniecki, 1918), it is
particularly important to consider the related but distinct socializing effects of cultures of
origin on immigrant children and children of immigrants, especially in light of increased
waves of migration and immigration from non-European countries, and from new regions
of the U.S. and its territories (Portes & Rumbaut, 2001; R. C. Smith, 2002; Zhou, 1997).
Children from ethnic and racial minority groups learn about race – and their status
– from an early age and throughout adolescence (see Winkler, 2010). African American
girls continue to prefer white girl dolls over dolls that look like them, as was found in the
seminal Clark & Clark studies in the 1930s and 40s (Kurtz-Costes, DeFreitas, Halle, &
Kinlaw, 2011). In studies of four distinct minority groups (African American, Hispanic,
American Indian, and Arab-Palestinian Israelis), those minority adolescents who are
engaged in school are most likely to be those who position their racial-ethnic identity as
being a dual identityboth a member of their racial-ethnic group and broader society –
as opposed to either (a) focusing on their in-group or (b) not having a racial-ethnic frame
(or self-schema) for their behavior (Oyserman, Kemmelmeier, Fryberg, Brosh, & Hart-
Johnson, 2003).
Gender identity. Although gender identity emerges early, it is shaped by
sociocultural influences across a variety of spheres – from the home, to social structures
such as schools, to broader society – as well as by individuals’ interpretations of gender
(see Bussey, 2011 for a review of the literature). Gender socialization can influence
children’s preferences, for example children’s responses to gendered colors of toys and
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 33
clothing. The toys that parents select for their children are becoming increasingly
gendered. Even Legoinitially targeted to both girls and boys – are releasing a girls’ line
of building blocks with pastel colors focused on the building of friendship communities
(Orenstein, 2011). In a study of children aged seven months to five years of age, clear
gender differences emerged by age two such that girls increasingly chose pink items (as
compared with seven items of other colors) and boys increasingly avoided pink items
(LoBue & DeLoache, 2011).
From infancy, children’s play, dress, friendships, and other relationships are
influenced by others based on their being viewed as female or male (e.g., Astin, 1975;
Eder & Hallinan, 1978; Maccoby, 1990; Thorne, 2011). Psychologists have argued that
preschool age children develop a sense of gender constancy, that gender is a stable trait,
and pay closer attention to gender-specific information related to the gender with which
they identify (Kohlberg, 1966; Ruble et al., 2007). They in turn affiliate themselves with
the norms, behaviors, and attributes of that gender. When made salient in preschool
classrooms, children appear more likely to favor same-sex peers and employ gender
stereotypes (Hilliard & Liben, 2010).
Such gender socialization practices continue to play a consequential role in
shaping children’s social and learning groups, from preschool onward. Teachers and
parents are influential in shaping the centrality of gender in children’s schooling. Gender
socialization towards mathematics is one example of this process. Teachers with anxiety
about mathematics may foster the reproduction of math anxiety among their female
students (Beilock, Gunderson, Ramirez, & Levine, 2010). By elementary school, boys
and girls seem to have internalized gender stereotypes about mathematics (Cvencek,
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 34
Meltzoff, & Greenwald, 2011). By high school, females show notably less interest in
mathematics and science than their male peers (Catsambis, 1994; Lee, 1998) and
subsequently take fewer mathematics courses in high school (e.g., Riegle-Crumb, Farkas,
& Muller, 2006). It may be that the messages girls and boys receive about the gender-
appropriateness of certain career fields influence their interest and enjoyment on tasks
corresponding to gender-normative fields as opposed to those that are associated with
another gender (Eccles, 1987, 2005).
Studies of gender-related teasing illustrate commonalities in the socialization of
gender and of sexual identity. Children are teased for behaviors that are seen as not
masculine or feminine (e.g., style of dress, manner of speech, participation in the arts).
Such socialization pressures shape gender performance among all youth, heterosexual
and sexual minority children and adolescents as well, across ethnic and racial groups
(Pascoe, 2007). The rampant nature of sexually-charged teasing often times rising to
the level of harassment – has been documented, as well as its often negative impact on
young boys and girls (C. Hill & Kearl, 2011). These and other studies explain that calling
a student “gay” may not necessarily be directed at their sexuality (while still being
intended as an insult), but the recipient may still interpret the harassment in relationship
to their gender and sexual identity. In early adolescence, teasing is used to demarcate
gender boundaries between girls and boys while also increasingly framing cross-gender
interaction as heterosexual and romantic in nature (Thorne & Luria, 1986).
Sexual identity. Adolescents may encounter distinct and sometimes conflicting
socialization messages from both mainstream society and their non-dominant identity
group(s) about how to think, feel, and behave (see Hyde & DeLamater, 2008). Overall,
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 35
the process by which adolescents explore sexuality, develop their sexual identity and
learn about sexual behavior seems to follow a pattern encouraging heterosexuality and
heteronormativity (Tolman & McClelland, 2011). LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and
transgender) youth may however experience disconnects between societal norms and
identity-based norms with respect to their developing sense of self and position within
society (see Hammack & Cohler, 2009).
For children and adolescents who do not identify with gender-normative roles,
strong socialization pressures can negatively influence their developing sense of self.
Notably, a recent study finds that mothers of young children tend to present only
heterosexual options in their discussions with them about romantic relationships, either
because they assume that their child is heterosexual or perhaps because they hope to
inhibit the development of a non-heterosexual identity (K. A. Martin, 2009).
Socialization pressures may prompt youth to develop strategies of coping with these
challenges to their identity and personhood (e.g., Pascoe, 2007). The bullying of LGBT
children and youth persists as a major social problem (D. H. Hill, 2008; Katz-Wise &
Hyde, 2012). Sexual minority youth seem to be at greater risk for marginalization and
disengagement from school, which can have adverse consequences over the life course
(Pearson, Muller, & Wilkinson, 2007). Media and internet outlets are a particularly
important option for young people, perhaps especially for those with limited access to
face-to-face communities. Young people may engage in LGBT and feminist subcultures
to help empower them in their sexual identity development. For example, female ‘zines
have been used by adolescent females to resist and counter messages from the dominant
culture about females’ roles in society (Schilt, 2003).
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 36
Recent research points to the weakening supremacy of homophobic attitudes and
culture, including – importantly adolescent males (McCormack, 2010). A study of a
British secondary school finds that boys’ social status is marked more by charisma and
other predictors of popularity than by the masculinity of their behavior (McCormack,
2011). The marginalization of gay athletes appears to be waning in some schools as well,
as noted by a recent study comparing openly gay high school athletes in the early 2000s
with those from the later part of the decade (Eric Anderson, 2011). Importantly, in a
study of adolescent sexual minority teenagers, Savin-Williams (2011) finds that the
young people interviewed tended to ‘come out’ about their identity earlier than was the
case in past years when the social climate was less accepting, and they were remarkably
happier and better adjusted than expected as well. These studies point to the influence of
sociocultural contexts in shaping adolescents’ perceptions of possible identities. Same-
sex unions have been increasing in number (see Rosenfeld & Kim, 2005), but the
increase has been particularly notable among young women, a phenomenon that may also
be explained by factors regarding social acceptability (Butler, 2005).
Behavioral Outcomes
Romantic relationships and onset of sexual behavior. As young people’s social
worlds become more focused on life outside of the home, they tend to focus on
developing relationships, including romantic partnerships (see e.g., Erikson, 1950;
Leaper, 2011), as is discussed more extensively in Chapter XX. Although interracial and
same-gender relationships are increasingly accepted in most industrial societies
(Rosenfeld & Kim, 2005), traditional norms may continue to exert influence.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 37
Research has also examined how socialization can influence early and risky
sexual behavior. In an analysis of seventh through twelfth grader adolescents from U.S.
secondary schools in the AddHealth study, researchers have found that peer group
membership has been associated with both (Bearman, Moody, & Stovel, 2004). South
and Haynie have studied the effects of residential mobility on adolescents’ school-based
friendship networks (e.g., South & Haynie, 2004). They find that adolescents who move
are more likely to experience premarital intercourse earlier than those who have not
recently moved, perhaps because they also have a greater tendency to form friendships
with adolescents who are both engaged in delinquent behavior and less engaged in school
(South, Haynie, & Bose, 2005).
Delinquent behavior. Studies have found that peers can influence adolescents’
tendency towards risky behavior (e.g., South et al., 2005). Specifically, studies have
found that affiliation with peers engaged in delinquent behavior (e.g., theft, vandalism) is
associated with adolescents’ own engagement in delinquent behavior, although there
seems to be an interactional mechanism behind this association rather than mere
socialization alone (Thornberry, Lizotte, Krohn, Farnworth, & Jang, 1994). Indeed, it
may be that adolescents’ delinquent behaviors leads them to similar peers (Matsueda &
Anderson, 1998) , although the evidence is mixed. In a cross-lagged panel study of 497
Dutch adolescents, their closest friends, and their parents, the peer socialization model
was better supported by the data (Keijsers et al., 2012).
Perhaps because engagement in school would affiliate adolescents with similarly
engaged peers, school engagement has also been found to influence young people’s
likelihood of engaging in delinquent behavior. Using a diverse sample of 1,977 early
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 38
adolescents, researchers found that those who experienced increasing behavioral and
emotional disengagement in school appeared to be more susceptible to delinquent
behavior and substance abuse (Li & Lerner, 2011). A study of 4,890 African American
and Latino fifth through eighth graders in Chicago found consistent results (Hirschfield &
Gasper, 2011). Delinquency can not only negatively impact young people’s educational
and criminal trajectories; it seems to decrease their ability to effectively complete
transitions to adulthood as well (Massoglia & Uggen, 2010).
Education and Career Outcomes
Parents, family members, teachers, and communities may influence children’s
interests and aspirations towards higher education and particular careers, and
achievement therein (Jodl, Michael, Malanchuk, Eccles, & Sameroff, 2001; E. Smith,
Atkins, & Connell, 2003; Sonnert, 2009). In the Wisconsin status attainment model
developed by Sewell and colleagues, significant others are found to shape students’
educational aspirations and career attainment (Sewell, Haller, & Portes, 1969; Sewell &
Hauser, 1975). Perceptions of their relationships with teachers and peers seem to
positively influence students’ educational trajectories during and after high school; in
particular, their perceptions of their teachersand classmates’ regard for their potential to
succeed academically (Perez-Felkner, under review). Supportive relationships with
teachers and classmates may help underrepresented students foster resilience in the face
of academic, social, and socioeconomic obstacles to their entry to four-year colleges and
science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. This can be
particularly important because of the challenges that disproportionately affect
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 39
underrepresented minorities in their pursuit of higher education (DeLuca & Rosenbaum,
2001; Goldrick-Rab, 2006; Hanson, 1994; Spenner, Buchmann, & Landerman, 2005).
Class and racial-ethnic differences. In this vein, the processes by which
socialization influences educational and career outcomes may differ by family
background, as discussed earlier in this chapter. Families’ social class and racial-ethnic
background can shape their children’s educational contexts both in terms of the schools
they attend and the resources they receive in school and at home. The influence of social
class on young people’s matriculation into four-year colleges is notable but may have
been declining, net of other factors, based on a study of the two most recent nationally
representative longitudinal cohorts of U.S. secondary school students, who were high
school sophomores in 1990 and 2002 (Perez-Felkner, Hedberg, & Schneider, 2011). Both
class and race-ethnicity remain important factors in children’s socialization into
educational and career trajectories however, a pattern that could be intensified by the
rising wealth gap among Americans. The gap is disproportionately high between white
families and black (20 times less wealthy) and Latino families (18 times less wealthy)
(Kochhar et al., 2011).
Race-ethnicity can shape how families socialize their children, in particular
around cultural socialization (e.g., ethnic pride), preparation for bias in society,
promotion of mistrust, and egalitarianism (e.g., relationship with mainstream culture)
(Hughes et al., 2006). Notably, variation in African American families’ approaches to
racial socialization has been found to affect children’s skill and behavioral development,
in particular around language skills and trust in others (Caughy et al., 2006). In a recent
study using a cultural-ecological frame to examine the relationship between parents
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 40
socialization practices and children’s competence (as measured by academic
achievement), preparation for bias interestingly increased fifth grade African American
boys’ grade point averages while decreasing those of girls (Friend, Hunter, & Fletcher,
2011).
With respect to class, middle class white families are more likely than working
class families to enlist their children in concerted cultivation training for adulthood
school-and out-of-school activities that are associated with school achievement and
preparation for participation in middle-class society and professional careers (Lareau,
2003). Middle class parents appear to more commonly apply pressure on teachers to
maintain or benefit their children’s educational resources than do working class parents
(McGhee Hassrick & Schneider, 2009). Similarly, elementary school children from
working class families seem to employ less effective strategies for obtaining help from
their teachers than their middle-class peers (Calarco, 2011). The findings described above
were from small original studies of students in urban schools. In an analysis of the
National Longitudinal Study of Youth 1979 cohort, parent involvement in schools does
not uniformly affect their elementary age children’s academic and behavioral outcomes,
but does appear to more positively benefit socioeconomically disadvantaged students
who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education and professional careers
(Domina, 2005).
Developing and aligning ambitions. Ogbu and colleagues argued that youth from
involuntary minority groups (as opposed to those from groups who voluntarily
emigrated) may develop oppositional identities as a result of their observation of a closed
opportunity structure (e.g., Ogbu & Simons, 1988). Based on this premise, some
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 41
involuntary minority youth might resist participating in what they see as a system fixed
against them and tease their school peers who are engaged in academic pursuit that they
are “acting white” (Ogbu & Fordham, 1986). Empirical evidence has disputed the claim
that racial-ethnic achievement gaps can be explained by young people’s concerns about
‘acting white’ (see Ainsworth-Darnell & Downey, 1998; Tyson, Darity, & Castellino,
2005). Nevertheless, various studies have found that young people’s perceptions of their
abilities as a function of being a member of their racial-ethnic group can affect their
academic performance and educational choices.
Based on numerous social psychological laboratory experiments, Steele and
colleagues’ stereotype threat theory argues that when negative stereotypes about a racial-
ethnic group’s ability are made salient, members of that group underperform on tests of
ability as compared to testing situations in which these stereotypes are not a part of the
test-taking context (Steele, 2003; Steele et al., 2002). School-based research finds that
minority adolescents construct narratives about the opportunities available to them as
members of their group, and the nature of these narratives is associated with their
educational aspirations (O'Connor, 1999). Young people’s experiences with racism and
racial-ethnic socialization in their support networks may influence their perceptions of
their cultural group and the roles available to members of this group (Stevenson &
Arrington, 2009), which may shape their academic ambitions (Oyserman et al., 2003;
Rivas-Drake & Mooney, 2009).
Generally, the aspirations of educationally underrepresented adolescents are rising
such that about as many black and Latino high school sophomores expect to graduate
from college as their white and Asian peers (see Ingels et al., 2005). Nevertheless,
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 42
Schneider and colleagues maintain that social inequality remains in adolescents’ access to
the knowledge and resources needed to align their high aspirations to the actions and
behaviors essential to realizing these goals (Crosnoe & Schneider, 2010; Barbara L.
Schneider & Stevenson, 1999). Indeed, misaligned ambitions may foster frustration and
disappointment among young people who are unable to realize their aspirations (Sabates,
Harris, & Staff, 2011).
Gendered differences. Children and adolescents undergo a sex role socialization
process that influences their education and career outcomes (Eccles & Hoffman, 1984;
Lee, 1998; Lips, 2004; Riegle-Crumb et al., 2006; Stake & Nickens, 2005). For many,
their primary identity is defined by their gender. Gender socialization in families,
schools, and peer groups can shape female and male adolescents’ subjective orientations
to all fields, especially engineering and computer science careers. Extensive research
suggests that children are socialized early to consider science and mathematics to be male
pursuits (e.g., Farland-Smith, 2009; Jacobs, Davis-Kean, Bleeker, Eccles, & Malanchuk,
2005). Traditionally male-dominated career fields tend to pay higher wages than those
that are traditionally female-dominated, which effectively maintains gendered
inequalities in individuals’ pathways to financially stable adulthoods (England, 2005).
These differences are puzzling considering overall gender differences in academic
performance. Girls tend to work harder and perform better in school than boys
(Mickelson, 1989), and are perceived by their teachers as being more engaged (Jones &
Myhill, 2004). Furthermore, males are being outperformed by their female peers in
secondary school as well as in postsecondary matriculation and completion (Buchmann
& DiPrete, 2006). Nevertheless, socialization seems to continue to steer young women
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 43
away from scientific, mathematical, and engineering majors (Cheryan, 2012; Seymour,
1999). Eccles (1987, 1994, 2009) developed an expectancy-value model to explain this
process, in which gender influences young people’s expectations about their potential
success in a given career field and these expectations shape their interest to fields that
either do or do not conform to their gendered expectations.
Importantly, many females with high mathematics ability in high school – who
might be best suited for these fields – tend not to persist in optional advanced
mathematics sequences in upper secondary school and college, and instead pursue
alternate fields such as the social and behavioral sciences (Perez-Felkner et al., 2012). In
a nationally representative study of U.S. adolescents transitioning from high school to
college, those females who pursued these traditionally-male scientific fields appear to
have similar subjective orientations to the subject matter as their male peers. Notably,
Bandura and colleagues draw upon his theory of self-efficacy to argue that children’s
perceptions of their efficacy in select areas are more influential in predicting their career
aspirations and pathways than their academic performance in those areas (Bandura,
Barbaranelli, Caprara, & Pastorelli, 2001).
NEW RESEARCH DIRECTIONS
Currently, researchers are pursuing more precise methodologies and frameworks
to improve our understandings of how socialization processes influence children and
adolescents. With respect to methods, technological innovations are facilitating causal
inferences about social processes. For example, quantitative researchers are increasingly
testing counterfactual hypotheses and using experimental and quasi-experimental
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 44
methods such as fixed effects and propensity score models to assess not only effect sizes
but also causality (e.g., David J. Harding, 2003; Barbara L Schneider, Carnoy, Kilpatrick,
Schmidt, & Shavelson, 2007). Moving causal inferences out of psychology laboratories
into observational, large-scale research holds the promise for major findings over the
coming years. Qualitative researchers are engaged in cutting-edge research as well,
including child-centered approaches that methodically aim to incorporate young people’s
perspectives in increasingly authentic ways (see Clark, 2010). Additionally, some
researchers are constructing collaborative ethnographies to explain complex phenomena
like racial interactions and perceptions across a major city’s ethnic groups with
complementary data from distinct but complementary qualitative research projects (e.g.,
DeGenova & Ramos-Zayas, 2003).
These methodological innovations are associated with complementary initiatives
to bridge theoretical and disciplinary divides, in particular with respect to investigations
of social change. For example, both adolescents and children increasingly access
interactive media and engage in previously inaccessible social and socializing contexts
through the internet. The rise in access to online media raises the question of how more
interactive forms of media are shaping young people’s development. It is important to
examine the influence that this media – which often targets youth as consumers - has on
both their developing sense of self and their behavior. Internet use on cell phones and
smartphones appears to be increasing participation in digital media; however Latinos’
participation continues to lag behind that of whites such that only 88% of Latino
teenagers aged 12-17 use the internet as compared to 97% of white, non-Hispanic teens,
and only 63% of Latino teenagers own a cell phone as compared to white teens (Porter &
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 45
Umbach, 2006). The digital divide is particularly pronounced among nonnative Latinos
(Landefeld, 2010).
Current published research on young people’s use of social media is extremely
limited, but interest in this area from both researchers and users (e.g., boyd, 2007)
suggests that this is an area with the potential for considerable gains in knowledge.5
Results of a recent Pew Research Center study indicate that 20% of children age 12-17
who use social media think that people their age are mostly “unkind” to one another on
social network sites, and 41% report witnessing online cruelty and meanness
“sometimes” (21%) or “frequently” (12%) (Porter & Umbach, 2006). These spaces are
not necessarily used merely for acquaintance formation and recreational interactions
between already familiar peers. As noted earlier, electronic media also present
opportunities for youth to engage in social resistance, against established gender norms
and regulatory institutions including states (e.g., Schilt, 2003), as seen with protest
activity during the Arab Spring of 2011. Innovations in and increased access to social
network research software (e.g., UCINET) seem particularly well-suited to investigate
the role of social media in the socialization of children and youth.
5 There do appear to be gendered differences in how young people use social media,
whereby females tend to pursue friendships and males focus on potential romantic
relationships (Thelwall, 2008). Recent research also suggests that social networking sites
can exert influence over young people’s developmental trajectories, such as their alcohol-
related behavior (Szwedo, Mikami, & Allen, 2012).
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 46
Another area in which there has been and continues to be dramatic changes in
young people’s lives is education. The past few decades have seen increasing
participation of minorities in both secondary and postsecondary education (see National
Science Foundation, 2011), although many minorities continue to be left out of the gains
that their more advantaged same-ethnic peers have been experiencing (Reynolds &
Johnson, 2011). There has been a rapid expansion of school choice options, from
elementary through postsecondary school, aimed at closing opportunity gaps. The
research is mixed however, as this climate of innovation has fostered immense changes in
school contexts with wide variation in quality (see Zimmer et al., 2009); thus far,
minority students attending schools of choice (e.g., charters, magnets) do not fare much
better than those attending traditional public schools with respect to entry to four-year
colleges and universities (Perez-Felkner et al., 2011). Recent research examines the
intersection between race-ethnicity and gender with respect to college access,
matriculation, and careers research that is both feasible and intriguing because of these
changing rates of participation (Wood, Kurtz-Costes, & Copping, 2011). In addition,
policies designed to increase preparedness for postsecondary school science and
mathematics foster rich potential for future research on socialization in and toward school
(see e.g., Allensworth, Nomi, Montgomery, & Lee, 2009; President's Council of Advisors
on Science and Technology (PCAST), 2010).
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 47
Mesosystem (e.g., extended family,
parents’ work environment)
Macrosystem (cultural level influence)
Figure 1. Bronfenbrenner’s Model of Human Development (1979)
Individual
Microsystem (e.g.,
relationships with
family, peers)
Note: Created by Perez-Felkner for this volume.
Socialization in Childhood and Adolescence Perez-Felkner, Lara 48
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Thesis
ABSTRACT The studies on youth subcultures have always attracted scholars and media, both locally and internationally. Specifically, in South Africa, we have witnessed subcultural youth formations, such as amapantsula, umswenko, the smarteez, zef, emmos and so forth. In the past few years, we saw the rise of a certain subcultural youth formation, popularly known as izikhothane, in South African townships. Owing to an escalation in izikhothane, this study was undertaken among the youth in Port Elizabeth townships. The study sought to explore and describe the significance of izikhothane membership and the rituals that are performed during their meetings. The qualitative approach was used for the study and semi-structured interviews, focus groups and observations were employed as data collection tools. The study used the explorative, descriptive and contextual design. The population for the study was the youth who are involved in the youth subculture of izikhothane in Port Elizabeth townships. The themes, which answered the questions, were identified as follows: the definition of isikhothane according to izikhothane, pulling or attraction factors, izikhothane rituals, the significance of isikhothane membership, the stopping age and the perceptions of community members about izikhothane. One of the main findings of this study is the age at which the youth join izikhothane. Contrary to studies in other areas, the participants joined the group at a younger age, and in other studies, the group members were generally older and continued with membership until they were even above the age of 25.
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The present study examines the five principles of the life course perspective—life span development, time and place, agency, timing, and linked lives—and their interplay on the experiences of 26 emerging adults (11 males and 15 females) during their transition from college completion into the STEM labor force in Spain. Findings derived from the in-depth interviews focus on the multilevel challenges these young people face and the set of strategies they develop to overcome them. From a gender perspective, the challenges reveal the structural inequalities (many associated with existing gender stereotypes) that women encounter throughout their educational and professional trajectory. The research also identifies how these women and men display agentic features (at a micro-level) and mobilize different types of networks (at a meso-level) to overcome this adverse structural context, especially, during the economic post-crisis in Spain.
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Being a child in American society can be problematic. Twenty percent of American children live in poverty, parents are divorcing at high rates, and educational institutions are not always fulfilling their goals. Against this backdrop, children are often patronized or idealized by adults. Rarely do we look for the strengths within children that can serve as the foundation for growth and development. In Rethinking Childhood, twenty contributors, coming from the disciplines of anthropology, government, law, psychology, education, religion, philosophy, and sociology, provide a multidisciplinary view of childhood by listening and understanding the ways children shape their own futures. Topics include education, poverty, family life, divorce, neighborhood life, sports, the internet, and legal status. In all these areas, children have both voice and agency. They construct their own social networks and social reality, sort out their own values, and assess and cope with the perplexing world around them. The contributors present ideas that lead not only to new analyses but also to innovative policy applications. Taken together, these essays develop a new paradigm for understanding childhood as children experience these years. This paradigm challenges readers to develop fresh ways of listening to children's voices that enable both children and adults to cross the barriers of age, experience, and stereotyping that make communication difficult.A volume in the Rutgers Series in Childhood Studies, edited by Myra Bluebond-Langner.