Culture and Socialization


A society has its own distinct culture and socialization of its members takes place through various institutions. Let us understand these two terms in detail.


Culture represents the thought processes, beliefs, customs, traditions etc.of a particular society. Culture and society are different as society is the organisation and structure of a geographical area whereas culture represents the beliefs and  behavioural patterns  of people. The value system and beliefs are central to any culture. Besides, culture consists of various components like norms, mores, folkways etc.

Values of a culture sets a standard for behaviour. It guides which behaviours are morally good and which are bad. This shapes the belief system of the people and they perform the good behaviour and refrain from bad behaviour. Values are not static and they may evolve over a period of time. For e.g, cleanliness is a value in a culture and people perform certain behaviours to follow this value.

Norms are those behaviours which are accepted in the society and are supposed to be learned and followed. They are implied and people learn them as they socialize. Some norms are formal and rigid and strict laws are made to abide by it (marriage) whereas some norms are informal which are common acceptable practices which can be flexible (joint family system in India). Norms are the behaviours which are practiced by the majority of the population in a society.

Norms are inclusive of mores and folkways.

Mores are the common practices of a group which are guided by moral principles. These are socially sanctioned behaviours and deviation from this leads to outrage and shaming and there are strict rules and laws against violation. For e.g, drug addiction in Indian culture is looked down upon by people.

Folkways are commonly practiced behaviour in a society which is free from any moral sanctity. These can be called basic etiquettes exhibited by people which emerge out of traditional practices. For e.g,  greeting somebody by shaking hands or folding hands or kissing. 


Socialization is the process by which an individual learns and accepts societal norms and becomes a functional member of a society. It is a complex process and it starts from childhood till adulthood. A child learns different behaviour at various stages of development. Various psychologists have also studied how an individual develops the concept of self and self esteem as a result of interaction with the external world. When a child is born it is incapable and dependent on the caregiver. As the child grows it imitates the behaviour of elders and enacts them. Further cognitive development leads a child to interpret behaviour as good, bad, morally correct or rewardable or punishable. Thus, the child learns the socially appropriate behaviour. 

Agencies of socialization

An individual learns behaviour through different agencies in a society. These shape the thought pattern, beliefs, and self image of an individual. These are described as follows:

family as an agency of socialization
  1. Family: Family is the primary agent through which an individual is socialized. Parents, siblings, grandparents and other extended family teach the child how to speak a language, food habits, appropriate dressing, manners etc. The child imitates the behaviours of parents and siblings and learn from them. Gender appropriate behaviours are also taught to children so they start identifying themselves as girls or boys.  It is to be noted here that a family might be of a specific socio-economic class, therefore socialization of children in different families vary from one another. For e.g, food habits of children of lower caste would be different from upper caste Hindu in India. 
  1. Peer group: Peer is the first agency of socialization outside the family system. Peers are people of the same age with whom children play and hang out. Individuals learn certain behaviours to be part of a particular peer group. In adolescents, peers hold an important place and sometimes an individual may start performing certain activities out of peer pressure. Gender specific roles are further learnt through peers.  Peer gives an identity to adolescents after their family. However, a balance between family and peer group should be maintained. 
  1. School: School is the first  formal agency of socialization where children receive formal education. During childhood an individual spends most of his time in school. Children are taught various subjects as well as co-curricular activities like sports etc. Children learn the value of academic excellence, following rules, completing tasks and team spirit. These aspects prepare the child for taking up challenges of adult life.
  1. Workplace: The organisation or the place where an individual works as an occupation also requires a person to behave in a particular way. As a part of it, the individual learns those behaviours. It is common to see people of different professions exhibit typical behaviour through which they can be identified. 
  1. Religion: Religion is one of the crucial agents of socialization. Children are taught moral values and ethical behaviour through religion. Before they learn about law or crime, they are taught the concept of sin as per religious standards. Rituals are passed on from one generation to the other. Children learn the importance of  religious ceremonies and social implications of religious gatherings. 
  1. Political scenario: The political scenario of a country also plays an important part in the socialization process of an individual. The age for eligibility to vote is decided by the government hence individuals learn this being part of a government. In some countries women are not allowed to drive therefore this behaviour is not explicit in such countries. In some countries the age for marriage is also governed by law hence people are socialized to think about marriage only after a certain age. 
  1. Mass Media: Individuals are highly exposed to mass media in the present era. Children and adults both learn from what is shown to them virtually.  People tend to identify with media characters and try to imitate them. The food habits, dressing style, patterns of social interaction is highly influenced by mass media. The internet has opened doors for globalization and individuals can learn global cuisine at a click of a mouse. 


Socialization is a continuous process through which Individuals are  prepared to become a functional member of a society. It is the combination of external environment as well as individual personal choice which makes one individual different from the other.

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