The nature vs. nurture debate refers to the ongoing discussion of the respective roles of genetics and socialization in determining individual behaviors and traits. Ultimately both sides do play a role in making us the people that we are.
Socialization is the process of learning and internalizing the values, beliefs, and norms of our social group and by which we become functioning members of society.
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The socialization process begins in infancy and is especially productive once a child begins to understand and use language, but it also is a lifelong process that continues into adulthood.
The self is our experience of a distinct, real, personal identity that is separate and different from all other people. Sociologists look at both the individual and society to gain a sense of where the self comes from. Most believe the self is created and modified through interaction over the course of a lifetime.
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic approach
Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic approach divides the mind into three interrelated systems.
The id consists of basic inborn drives that are the source of instinctive psychic energy. The superego is composed of the conscience, which serves to keep us from engaging in socially undesirable behavior, and the ego-ideal, which upholds our vision of who we believe we should ideally be. The superego represents the internalized demands of society. The ego is the realistic aspect of the mind that balances the forces of the id and superego.
Charles Cooley believed that one’s sense of self depends on seeing one’s self reflected in interactions with others.
The looking-glass self refers to the notion that the self develops through our perception of others’ evaluations and appraisals of us
George Herbert Mead
George Herbert Mead expanded Cooley’s ideas about the development of the self. Mead also believed that the self was created through social interaction and that this process started in childhood, with children beginning to develop a sense of self at about the same time that they began to learn language. Mead argued that one of the key developments was the ability to think of ourselves as separate and distinct and to see ourselves in relationship to others. When children can take the perspective of the generalized other, rather than specific individuals, they have passed through the final stage of development.
Erving Goffman believed that meaning is constructed through interaction. His approach, dramaturgy, focuses on how individuals take on roles and act them out to present a favorable impression to their “audience.” Goffman argues that people are concerned with controlling how others view them, a process he called impression management.
Agents of socialization
Agents of socialization are the social groups, institutions, and individuals that provide structured situations in which socialization takes place.
The four predominant agents of socialization are the family, schools, peers, and the mass media. The family is the single most significant agent of socialization in and teaches us the basic values and norms that shape our identity. Schools provide education and socialize us through a direct as well as a hidden curriculum (a set of behavioral traits such as punctuality, neatness, discipline, hard work, competition, and obedience) that teaches many of the behaviors that will be important later in life.
Peers provide very different social skills and can become more immediately significant than the family, especially as children move through adolescence. The media has become an important agent of socialization, often overriding the family and other institutions in instilling values and norms.
Resocialization is the process of replacing previously learned norms and values with new ones as a part of a transition in life. A dramatic form of resocialization takes place in a total institution.
This type of institution (a place such as a prison, cult, or mental hospital) cuts off people from the rest of society so that their lives can be controlled and regulated for the purpose of systematically stripping away previous roles and identities in order to create a new one.
A status is a position in society that comes with a set of expectations. An ascribed status is one we are born with that is unlikely to change. An achieved status is one we have earned through individual effort or that is imposed by others. One’s master status is a status that seems to override all others and affects all other statuses that one possesses. Roles are the behaviors expected from a particular status.
Role conflict occurs when the roles associated with one status clash with the roles associated with a different status. Role strain occurs when roles associated with a single status clash. Either of these may lead to role exit.
Emotions and Personality
Though we tend to believe that our emotions are highly personal and individual, there are social patterns in our emotional responses.
Role-taking emotions are emotions like sympathy, embarrassment, or shame, which require that we assume the perspective of another person and respond from that person’s point of view. Feeling rules are socially constructed norms regarding the expression and display of emotions and include expectations about the acceptable or desirable feelings in a given situation. Emotion work refers to the process of evoking, suppressing, or otherwise managing feelings to create a publicly observable display of emotion.
New Interactional Contexts
Though most sociological perspectives on interaction focus on interactions that occur in copresence (when individuals are in one another’s physical presence), modern technology enables us to interact with people very far away. Postmodern theorists claim that the role of technology in interaction is one of the primary features of postmodern life.
Deviance is a behavior, trait, belief, or other characteristic that violates a norm and causes a negative reaction.
The definition of deviance varies widely across cultures, time, and situations.
Deviance Across Cultures
•It is important to remember that when sociologists use the term deviant, they are making a social judgment, never a moral one. If a particular behavior is considered deviant, it means that it violates the values and norms or a particular group, not that it is inherently wrong. •Much of the literature on deviance focuses on crime, and how different cultures define very different behaviors as criminal or not and the vast differences seen in how crimes are punished.
Theories of Deviance
•Functionalists argue that deviance serves a social function by clarifying moral boundaries and promoting social cohesion. Conflict theorists believe that a society’s inequalities are reproduced in its definitions of deviance, so that less powerful group are more likely to be deemed deviant and criminalized.
Merton’s structural strain theory argues that the tension or strain between socially approved goals and an individual’s ability to meet those goals through socially approved means leads to deviance as individuals reject either the goals (achieving success), the means (hard work, education), or both. •Symbolic Interactionist theories of deviance focus on how interactions shape definitions and meaning of deviance and influence those who engage in deviant behavior. Differential association theory states that we learn to be deviant through our associations with deviant peers. Labeling theory claims that deviance is a consequence of external judgments, or labels, which both modify the individual’s self-concept and change the way others respond to the labeled person. Labeling theory is also related to the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy, which is an assumption, usually defined by a label, that causes itself to come true.
Stigma and Deviant Identity
•A stigma is Erving Goffman’s term for any physical or social attribute that devalues a person or group’s identity, and which may exclude those who are devalued from normal social interaction. •One strategy analyzed by Goffman that stigmatized individuals use to negotiate everyday interaction is called passing, or concealing the stigmatizing information. Others have what Goffman called an in-group orientation, where stigmatized individuals follow an orientation away from mainstream society and toward new standards that value their group identity. Finally, others choose deviance avowal, a process by which an individual self-identifies as deviant and initiates his or her own labeling process.
•Sociologists have often focused on the most obvious forms of deviance criminals, those suffering from mental illness, and sexual deviants because of deeply rooted social bias in favor of the norms of the powerful. David Matza urged social scientists to set aside their preconceived notions in order to understand deviants on their own terms.
The Foreground of Deviance: The Emotional Attraction of Doing Bad Deeds
•Most sociological perspectives of deviance focus on aspects of a person’s background that would predispose her to act in deviant ways. In contrast, Jack Katz argues that researchers can better understand crime and deviance by considering how criminals experience their acts of deviance.•One key finding that arose from this approach was that many people who commit deviant acts do so because of the positive feeling or “rush” that committing such an act entails. •Cyberbullying is a new form of deviance in which people are abused through the use of technology (such as mass texts or social networking sites).
This type of bullying can be especially detrimental because its abusive message can reach an almost limitless number of people in a very short time.
Crime is the violation of a norm that has been codified into law. Violent crime is a crime in which violence is either the objective or the means to an end, including murder, rape, aggravated assault, and robbery. Property crime is crime that does not involve violence, including burglary, larceny theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson.
White-collar crime is crime committed by a high status individual in the course of her or his occupation. Using statistics provided by the Uniform Crime Report, sociologists have found that people from poorer neighborhoods, males, youth, and minorities are among the most likely to be arrested. At the same time, sociologists warn against drawing causal conclusions from such relationships, and rather focus on how outside influences may lead to these patterns of criminal behavior.
There is an ongoing debate about the role of punishment in the criminal justice system, a collection of social institutions (legislatures, police, courts, and prisons) that create and enforce laws. Deterrence is an approach to punishment that relies on the threat of harsh penalties to discourage people from committing crimes. Retribution is an approach to punishment that emphasizes retaliation or revenge for the crime as the appropriate goal. Incapacitation is an approach to punishment that seeks to protect society from criminals by imprisoning or executing them. Finally, rehabilitation is an approach to punishment that attempts to reform criminals as part of their penalty.
Positive deviance refers to actions considered deviant within a given context that are later reinterpreted as appropriate or even heroic.
Social stratification is the division of society into groups arranged in a social hierarchy. Social stratification is a characteristic of society (not individuals) and can persist over generations
Systems of Stratification
•Slavery is the most extreme system of social stratification and is based on the legal ownership of people. •A caste system is a form of social stratification in which status is determined by one’s family history and background and cannot be changed. •Social class refers to a system of stratification based on access to resources such as wealth, property, power, and prestige. Sociologists often refer to the combination of these factors as one’s socioeconomic status (or SES).
Social Classes in the United States
•The upper class is a largely self-sustaining group of the wealthiest people in a class system; they comprise about one percent of the U.S. population and possess most of the wealth of the country.
The upper-middle class consists mostly of professionals and managers. The middle class consists primarily of “white collar” workers with a broad range of incomes. The working (lower-middle) class is made up mainly of mostly “blue-collar” or service industry workers.
The lower class consists of people who are poor and typically have lower levels of literacy than other classes; they comprise about 20 percent of the U.S. population.•Status inconsistency refers to serious differences among the different elements of an individual’s socioeconomic status, such as someone who has little education but a very high income.
Karl Marx believed that there were two main social classes in capitalist societies: the capitalists (or bourgeoisie), who owned the means of production, and the workers (or proletariat), who sold their labor for wages.
He believed that the classes would remain divided and social inequality would grow. Max Weber argued that class status was the product of three components: wealth, power, and prestige (the social status people are given because of their membership in well-regarded social groups).
More recently, Pierre Bourdieu has attempted to explain social reproduction, the tendency of social classes to remain relatively stable from one generation to the next. According to Bourdieu, this stability happens because each generation acquires what he called cultural capital, the tastes, habits, expectations, skills, knowledge, and other cultural dispositions that are required to become members of particular social classes.
Symbolic Interactionists examine the way we use status differences to categorize ourselves and others. As Erving Goffman pointed out, our clothing, speech, gestures, possessions, friends, and activities provide information about our socioeconomic status.
Socioeconomic Status and Life Chances
Belonging to a certain social class has profound consequences for individuals in all areas of life, including education, employment, and medical care.
Social mobility is the movement of individuals or groups within the hierarchal system of social classes. A closed system is one with very little opportunity to move from one class to another. An open system is one with ample opportunities to move from one class to another.
Intergenerational mobility is the movement between social classes that occurs from one generation to the next.
Intragenerational mobility is the movement between social classes that occurs over the course of an individual’s lifetime
Horizontal social mobility
Horizontal social mobility is the occupational movement of individuals or groups within a social class.
Vertical social mobility
Vertical social mobility is the movement between social classes, which is referred to as upward or downward mobility. Structural mobility refers to changes in the social status of large numbers of people due to institutional or organizational changes in society.
In the United States, the federal poverty line (an absolute measure based income) indicates that, in 2005, about 37 million people (12.
6% of the population) in the United States were considered poor.
Relative deprivation is a relative measure of poverty based on the standards of living in a particular society, whereby people are considered poor if their standard of living is less than that of other members of society
Absolute deprivation is an objective measure of poverty that is defined by the inability to meet minimal standards for food, shelter, clothing, or health care.
The culture of poverty
The culture of poverty refers to entrenched attitudes that can develop among poor communities and lead the poor to accept their fate rather than attempt to improve their situation. One of the key criticisms of this theory is that it tends to blame the victims of poverty for their own misfortune while failing to take into account the structural factors that shape culture.
Residential segregation, political disenfranchisement, and the use of law enforcement to control the homeless can make poverty invisible to many Americans
Inequality and the Ideology of the American Dream
•distinct ideology that explains and justifies our social system. The ideology of the American Dream (that anyone can achieve material success if they work hard enough) has been criticized for several reasons. For example, it legitimizes stratification by reinforcing the idea that everyone has the same opportunity to get ahead and that success or failure depends on the person.