What is Socialization in Sociology? Types, Agents & Process

Socialization is a vital process in sociology that shapes individuals’ understanding of the world around them.

It refers to the process through which individuals learn their society’s norms, values, behaviors, and cultural expectations. As a result of socialization, individuals develop a sense of self and their place in society and learn how to interact with others.

Socialization is a complex and lifelong process that occurs through interactions with various agents of socialization, including family, peers, schools, media, and government.

In this article, we will explore the concept of socialization in sociology, including its types, agents, and process, and its role in maintaining social order and transmitting culture from one generation to the next.


Socialization in sociology is the process where people come across social norms and customs and gain awareness towards knowledge that they are part of society. The process helps the person to understand self and also gain self-identity. 

When an individual takes birth, he does not know about the world and is helpless. But when the infant grows up, slowly and gradually, he gains access to what’s around, what’s society and how every norm and system is. Soon, he gains awareness about things happening around him. 

There are a few concepts in socialization. Primary socialization and secondary socialization are the prominent ones. 

Primary socialization occurs in the beginning stages of life, and secondary socialization occurs throughout the lifespan. Many individuals and agencies are responsible for socialization, including parents, classmates, peers, and people around you. 

When Does Socialization Start?

Socialization starts occurring at a very early stage when the child starts going to the playgroup or nursery. This thing forms the base of the individual, and he learns he is part of the people around him. 

The individual learns social manners and also differentiates between what’s good and what’s wrong. The person starts understanding that good things and behavior lead to rewards and bad things, and bad behavior leads to punishment or disliking.

What Is The Primary Purpose Of Socialization?

Socialization makes the individual feel that he is part of the group or society. Although this is the main purpose, there are many other purposes that socialization can serve. Read on and get an idea.

  • There are certain traditions and norms in society. When an individual becomes part of that society, those traditions and norms get passed on to him. He would then accept the same and follow them. Interaction and socialization make the person feel that he is part of society.

  • Growing children get an idea about what is good and what is wrong. For example, it is a norm to go to the bathroom when you want to urinate. Wetting the pants is terrible, and going to the washroom is right. This learning is what individuals learn when they grow from toddlerhood to adulthood. Individuals know that there is a controlling factor that is good and which is right in every sense. 

  • With socialization comes values. When the individual is given the right environment, the values built up will stay for life. Those parents who inculcate good habits in children and encourage them to study well grow up as individuals who respect authority and enhance their skills to do better work.

  • Gender, race, and countries play a crucial role in socialization. When the person feels that he belongs to a particular society or stereotype, it means that socialization is one of the influencing factors in his life.

Agents Of Socialization

Agents of socialization are the individuals, groups, and institutions that play a significant role in socializing individuals and transmitting culture. The primary agents of socialization include:

1. The family

The first introduction that the child gets about socialization is through family and parents. Here the scope of primary socialization is at its maximum. 

The infant takes birth and does not know about anything. Parents introduce the child to learnings, skills, and education. While growing up, the experiences and the way of living teach a lot to the child. Indirectly, he gets an introduction to socialization.

2. The school

The child learns a lot from his family. But here in school, he is introduced to formal education. He has teachers, a wider circle of friends, and more knowledge to his access.

 He wants to be part of the circle, wants to do well, understands the difference between good and bad, and also follows the norms of the school.

3. The peers

As a student, the child spends more time with the peer group. He talks to them and learns from them. 

He wants to gain respect within the peer group. He is more inclined to the peer group at this stage, and hence sometimes there is child-parent conflict. In elders, too, there is organizational socialization with peers and co-workers. 

People with whom you spend time outside at the workplace or school, or college are your peers. They are important agents of socialization.

4. Mass media

The mass media’s role is to make us understand what’s happening in the outside world. Things that you watch on television make a profound impact. It is, therefore, one of the crucial agents of socialization in the modern world.

5. The state

The place where you live, you know about its culture, norms, and traditions. Whether you portray those norms as rules, you must follow them to belong to that state. Thus, the state is an essential agency for socialization.

6. Books

Educational books with knowledge, morals, and ideas about cultures provide an idea about what’s socially acceptable and what’s not. There is a lot of learning that people can do with the help of books. Thus, books also play a crucial role as an agency of socialization.

Types Of Socialization

There are many Types Of Socialization, and these include the following.

Primary socialization

This Type of socialization occurs from the birth of a person till he becomes an adolescent. Parents, teachers, guardians, and peers who come into the person’s life at this stage would be responsible for primary socialization. There is a lot of learning and identification at this stage.

Secondary socialization

In this Type, the person would understand how to be part of a group and behave with others. This type of socialization occurs in offices, tourist destinations, colleges, and when the person is good enough to make his own decisions.

Organizational socialization

This Type of socialization occurs at the offices or organizational levels. The employees get accustomed to policies and norms. They enhance their skills to gain a reputation within the organization. 

They behave in such a way that they can be part of the office group. With this form of socialization, new employees will understand management goals and how they need to perform better. 

They know their roles at the workplace and identify themselves as belonging to the organization.

Forced socialization

This type of socialization happens at places where people are forced to stay. But as they remain, they will identify the norms and the way of life there. The best examples are a jail, mental asylum, and some boarding schools. 

For instance, if a person is imprisoned, he will have to learn the norms of the place where he is staying. The jail will have its rules, and those staying there must follow them. No one likes to stay at such a place, and hence this type of socialization is called as forced one.

Anticipatory Socialization

This occurs when individuals prepare for future roles and statuses by learning the norms, values, and behaviors associated with those roles. For example, a student who anticipates becoming a doctor may study medicine and learn the norms and values of the medical profession.


This occurs when individuals learn new norms, values, and behaviors that are different from their previous ones. Resocialization typically occurs in situations such as entering a new occupation, joining a religious organization, or undergoing a major life transition such as marriage or divorce.

Informal Socialization

This occurs through casual interactions with others, such as through conversations, play, or online interactions. Informal socialization can be a powerful influence on an individual’s values and behaviors.

Formal Socialization

This occurs through organized institutions and programs, such as schools, the military, or job training programs. Formal socialization typically involves a structured curriculum and specific goals for learning and behavior.

Socialization Process

Socialization Is Not A One-Time Process But A Continuous one.

The socialization process refers to the lifelong process through which individuals learn the norms, values, behaviors, and cultural expectations of their society.

The socialization process occurs through interactions with agents of socialization, such as family, peers, schools, media, and government.

The socialization process typically begins in early childhood with primary socialization, where children learn their culture’s basic norms, values, and behaviors from their families.

As individuals mature, they gain secondary socialization, where they learn more complex social norms and roles from peer groups, schools, and the workplace.

The socialization process can also involve anticipatory socialization, where individuals prepare for future roles and statuses by learning the norms, values, and behaviors associated with those roles.

Resocialization is also a part of the socialization process, where individuals learn new norms, values, and behaviors that are different from their previous ones.

Throughout socialization, individuals develop a sense of self and their place in society. They learn how to interact with others and how to behave in different social situations.

The socialization process is essential for the maintenance of social order and the transmission of culture from one generation to the next.

What Do Critics Think About Socialization?

There are many critics of the theory of socialization. They feel that even though people accept most social norms, some are assumptions. If these norms help in enhancing the experience, then it’s good. But some of them create inequalities and instances of social injustice. 

Critics also feel that socialization’s drawbacks include gender bias and racism. Sometimes norms lead to identity markers, and these create prejudices. An individual should be judged based on his skills and talents, not gender and race.

Different Theories Of Socialization

Sigmund Freud developed his theory on socialization which gained a good amount of popularity. Through this theory, he created two crucial terms: ego and superego. 

His approach said that there are three parts in the brain, and all of them should be balanced for the person to function well in society. If any one part gains more dominance, then this balance will be in trouble.

There are many other socialization theories, including cognitive development theory, psychoanalytic theory, moral development theory, social self-theory, and eight stages of development theory. 

Knowing and understanding the different theories of socialization will provide an idea about how human beings accept themselves as part of the group and how they behave in the group.

Theories Of Socialization

Socialization is the process through which individuals acquire the beliefs, values, customs, behaviors, and social norms of their culture. There are several theories of socialization, including:

Social Learning Theory:

This theory suggests that individuals learn behaviors and attitudes through observation, imitation, and reinforcement. Social learning theory is based on the idea that people are influenced by their environment, and they learn from the people around them, including parents, peers, and media.

Cognitive Development Theory:

This theory, proposed by Jean Piaget, emphasizes the role of cognitive development in socialization. According to this theory, children go through different stages of cognitive development, and as they grow and develop, they acquire new knowledge, skills, and ways of thinking. This cognitive development, in turn, affects how children learn and understand social norms and values.

Symbolic Interactionism:

This theory emphasizes the role of symbols and interactions in socialization. According to this theory, individuals learn social norms and values through their interactions with others, and they attach meanings to symbols, such as language and gestures. Through these interactions, individuals acquire a sense of self and a sense of the social world around them.

Social Structure Theory:

This theory emphasizes the role of social structure in socialization. According to this theory, individuals are shaped by the social structures and institutions around them, such as family, school, and the workplace. These structures provide the rules and expectations that guide individuals’ behavior and help them understand their place in society.

Ecological Systems Theory:

This theory emphasizes the importance of the environment in socialization. According to this theory, individuals are shaped by the different environments they experience, from the family to the larger community. These environments, in turn, influence the individual’s behavior, attitudes, and values.


The socialization process is continuous, and there is learning every day. A person wants to be part of the circle where he lives or where he works. 

He, therefore, identifies and accepts the norms to have the feeling of belonging. Right from childhood, the individual comes across various agencies of socialization that help him understand how he can be part of the social circle. 

Living in the social circle with the identification of self can help enhance life’s experience. The concept of socialization has deep meaning, and many theories are based on the same. The idea has followers as well as critics. 

As an individual, you would be living within a social circle, interacting with people, connecting with peers, and accepting the norms of society. 

The concept of socialization in sociology started earning deeper interests of the thinkers. There were many other theories developed based on these concepts. The most popular theories of socialization include cognitive theories, social-psychological theories, functionalist perspective theories, and conflict theories. 

The concept of socialization has good relevance because it is something you start from childhood till you live. You gain identification of self and accept the norms of the group you are part of.

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