Socialization in Schools
Socialization can be defined as the type of social learning that occurs when a person interacts with other individuals. While some believe that this process is limited to the childhood years, others argue that socialization is a continuous process that stretches over a person's lifetime. Research has shown that gender group associations are the primary concern when children go from the preschool age to the adolescent years. Although there are many legitimate reasons why home schooling has become popular, there is a concern about the effects of home schooling on children, especially as it relates to the child's ability to socialize.
Keywords Adolescence; Elimination; Group Socialization Theory; Home Schooling; Peer Groups; Segregation; Selection; Social Learning; Socialization; The Social Networks Research Group
Socialization in Schools
Socialization can be defined as the type of social learning that occurs when a person interacts with other individuals. While some believe that this process is limited to the childhood years, others argue that socialization is a continuous process that stretches over a person's lifetime.
Psychologists, sociologists, and other researchers have studied socialization and social development over a century. As a result of their work, practitioners have been able to guide people through the socialization process. It has been found that social learning theory is especially helpful in understanding socialization and the most appropriate ways to guide a person through the process.
Selecting Peer Groups
"The first step in human group affiliation is the categorization of people into groups" (Harris, 1995, p. 466). Experts disagree on when humans develop the ability to categorize: Jean Piaget claimed that children developed this ability by the time they were toddlers, but more recent research indicates that infants can categorize people, too. (Harris 1995). Regardless of age, though, most people categorize others according to age, sex, and race (Harris, 1995). Young children are the exception, as most do not begin to make racial distinctions until they reach preschool age (Harris, 1995). Infants, however, are believed to recognize differences in age and gender by the time they are a year old (Harris, 1995). Interestingly, infants also demonstrate a preference for other infants, and, by the time they are two years old, begin to prefer children of their own sex (Harris, 1995).
Corsaro (1993) defines childhood socialization as the "production of and movement through a series of peer cultures" (p. 361). According to Corsano (1993), all childhood peer groups create their own culture. And, as Harris notes, "though this series of cultures is capable of adapting to changing times, it is also capable of remaining relatively unchanged while cohort after cohort of children passes through it" (Harris, 1995, p. 470). Through these series of unique childhood peer cultures, children pass down group norms to younger children as they age and move into older peer groups. For example, a group of eight and nine year olds may teach a six year old to play hide and seek or speak Pig Latin even as they are growing older and learning from other, older children how to play basketball or a complicated card game. In this way, groups' norms are passed down from generation to generation.
Drawing on Harris' group socialization theory, Ironstrack, Klee, McKay, and Minera (2005) write, "culture may not be transmitted from individual to individual, but from group to group" (p. 3). If Harris is correct, it can be said that children learn primarily from their own peer groups as well as from older groups - including their parents' peer groups - rather than from their parents directly. It can also be inferred that cultural transmission occurs from parents' peer groups to children's peer groups rather from parent to child directly.
Though there may be cultural variations in parenting practices, the children's play group is universal (Harris, 1995). Across cultures, small play groups will include both boys and girls and a wide range of ages; large play groups, though, tend to divide along the lines of sex and age (Harris, 1995). And although large groups of girls tend to split up into dyads and triads, these smaller groups will usually be made up of girls who belong to similar social categories, such as age (Harris, 1995). These tendencies demonstrate that children see themselves as members of social categories, even though they may not know all the members of a category, and even if the members of a category are not all located in one place.
For example, in many cultures, a community's children are brought together to attend school. These groups of children tend to be large and composed of individuals of the same age, but that is where the similarities tend to end. Although schools generally group children together by age, children tend to choose to group themselves according to sex as well, even when school authorities disapprove of this segregation (Harris 1995). For example, during lunchtime children will often divide themselves according to sex (Harris, 1995). The girls may sit together at one table while the boys sit together at a separate table. In schools that have a high degree of racial or ethnic diversity, children may also separate themselves according to these distinctions. However, sex tends to be the most important distinction that children make (Harris, 1995).
Once children reach adolescence, sex segregation diminishes. Instead, adolescents group themselves according to other criteria like "athletic, social or academic interests;… race, ethnicity, social class; and… proclivities such as drug use and delinquency” (Harris, 1995). According to Harris (1995), "two changes occur between early and mid-adolescence: gender ceases to be the primary indicator of group identity, and size ceases to be a useful indication of age and status" (p. 471). Adolescents who live in societies that do not confer adulthood upon them as soon as they reach physical maturation tend to categorize themselves as belong to an adolescent group that is distinct from adult groups. Harris (1995) uses this tendency to argue that much of adolescent behavior results from adolescents' desire to distinguish themselves from adults, rather than from their aspiration to become adults, as other researchers have argued. To make this distinction, Harris (1995) says, adolescents may dress, speak, and behave differently from adults.
However, others disagree with Harris. Moffitt (1993) asserts that "adolescent delinquency must be a social behavior that allows access to some desirable resource" and suggests that "the 'resource' is mature status, with its consequent power and privilege" (p. 686).
Children's Peer Groups in Schools
The Social Networks research group, which is comprised of faculty and students from the Department of Psychology at Portland State University, has focused its research on children's peer networks. Its members are primarily concerned with how peer group processes can "promote or undermine intra-individual change in a child's academic development" (Sage, Hillier, Weaver, Newton-Curtis, & Kindermann, 2002, p. 3). One facet of the group's research has been how children join, leave, and exclude other children from their groups, as...
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