Socialisation is a vital stage to any child's development. Interestingly, sociologists divide socialisation into two stages. Primary socialisation is the socialisation that occurs at a very early age and is the responsibility of our parents or guardians. Secondary socialisation recognises the influence of other people in our lives, such as teachers. Socialisation is helpful in recognising the massive responsibility of being a parent or carer of a child.
Socialization can play either a negative or a positive role, but it always plays an important role.
Socialization is what determines much of what we are like. If we are socialized to be intolerant, for example, we are likely to end up that way. This shows that socialization really can have major negative impacts on a person.
So, I would argue that socialization is perhaps the major factor in determining what a child turns out like. Other posts have pointed out the role that this plays in children's emotional development, but I think that it is just as important in determining how children (and the adults they become) end up behaving in ways that we might call political.
I agree with the other posters in the stand that socialization is important in development. I have worked with a student who was diagnosed with RAD (Reactive Detachment Disorder). This student was neglected as an infant- AN INFANT!! This social neglect has caused him/her to have massive social problems now: inability to create relationships (even with parents), sexual issues, violent, grandiose thoughts, and works the victim triangle (horribly well).
Socialization is almost as important as the three basics (food, clothing, and shelter); if not more important.
Socialization is crucial for "normal" emotional and mental development. Even with infants, just touching them helps them to feel safe, gets the neurons firing, and helps them to bond. They are absorbing everything about their environment: Language, other sounds, smells, faces, temperature etc. As children grow older, they continue to explore their environments and to be influenced by the people in their environment.
These early years are important as children begin to learn things such as appropriate social cues, personal space, sharing, listening to others, politeness, team work and so on. Unfortunately, if a child's social environment is one full of distrust and negativity, he may not be as successful with interacting with others in a positive manner.
Socialisation is vital for children and is the most important skill we can have. As an only child with an only child, I am aware that many behaviours have to be demonstrated, taught, explored, rehearsed and refined to operate successfully as a member of a community. Skills such as turn-taking, sharing, listening to others and showing empathy take practice like any other skill.
A tale my mother told me about my first week at preschool helped me appreciate why she made sure I had lots of contact with other children. I had taken myself to the top of a slide with an armful of toys and was shrieking at the other children. When the preschool teacher coaxed me in to explaining what was wrong, I was apparently extremely distressed that other children were playing with my toys. I needed to appreciate that not all toys were mine (they were at home...). The situations wan't helped by precocious me pointing out that they had my 'nitials' on them. This was explained later by my mum - my initials were TM, and we had spent time at home finding these initials on my toys - the understanding of the term trademark was a lesson for later in life...
Socialization is critical to healthy development of children (and most animals for that matter). There have been many studies showing the detrimental effect of isolation on beings and how that brings on a whole host of mental problems. However, I will add, that I am not of fan of socialization through things like day care when it is done too early. I think kids need a strong parental/family bond before they are left alone to "socialize" with others outside the family. I think good parenting is a slow process of letting go...so by the time children "leave the nest" after high school that they have the values and mores of their family...but are independant and ready to leave.
Human beings are, by their very nature, social animals. Easy proof of this is what happens to someone who has been isolated for a very long time--they lose touch with reality. So because of our need to be social with other humans, socialization is an inevitable process that essentially trains people in this kind of interaction. Socialization teaches a child what is acceptable in terms of behavior, what is expected, and trains them for the worlds of school and work as well as family.
We are meant to develop in a world of people. There is no cognitive, social, or emotional development without feedback from others. We have neurons that are sometimes called "empathy" neurons. These are what allow us to "feel" others around us. If these are not stimulated through feedback, I believe they atrophy, or at least, cannot develop further. An example of this is a baby's smile. A baby sees a smile. It smiles itself in imitation. A person smiles back. The smile is reinforced. Without that feedback, there is no reinforcement at all, and eventually, the smile, and the good feelings that accompany it, will wither. A person who is brought up without socialization cannot function properly in the world. The smile is just the beginning.