In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Sociological Perspectives on Socialization

  • Introduction
  • Overviews and Methods
  • Textbooks and Anthologies
  • New Directions in Socialization Scholarship

Sociology Sociological Perspectives on Socialization
Emily Daina Šaras, Lara Perez-Felkner
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 August 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 August 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0155


Scholars of sociology, anthropology, psychology, and Education alike are interested in socialization. This phenomenon influences individual and collective development as well as the reproduction of status hierarchies and structural inequalities. Socialization is the multifaceted process through which individuals learn and internalize cultural norms, codes, and values. This process enables entry into and sustained membership in one or more social groups. Individuals develop social and cultural competencies through (1) interaction with other individuals and social institutions and (2) response to their macro- and micro-sociocultural contexts. Socialization does not occur in a vacuum: this process operates in social locations that both afford and constrain interaction and opportunity. In turn, social expectations for individuals coming of age are not uniform. Correspondingly, the mechanisms and outcomes of socialization vary across geographical space, sociocultural context, and sociohistorical time. Additionally, socialization processes may vary within a society, depending on the power and status of their subgroup identities. Many members of society additionally navigate the at times competing influences of the dominant culture and marginalized subcultures. Much scholarly attention has focused on the socialization processes of childhood and adolescence. However, adaptation to and internalization of social norms, values, and behaviors continues throughout adulthood. Individuals experience identity, Family, educational, and career changes and transitions alongside members of their generational cohort. As a result, their social roles may shift and change over the life course. Socialization facilitates processes of inclusion and participation of diverse individuals and groups in society. At the same time, socialization contributes to the stabilization of social order, which can include reproduction of existing stratification by race, gender, and social class. Processes of socialization continue to shape generational cohorts and intergenerational dynamics as well as across various social institutions. In summary, socialization prepares individuals for membership in society and is associated with the stability and maintenance of society writ large.

Overviews and Methods

Socialization is the dialectical process through which individuals exchange, adapt to, and internalize the norms, beliefs, behaviors, and values of a shared social group over the life course. Perez-Felkner 2013 details how, from an early age, individuals engage in the processes of socialization through trying on different social roles and adapting to specific social contexts. Focusing on adult socialization, Lutfey and Mortimer 2006 notes that as individuals’ social competencies develop, their socialization contributes to the stability and reproduction of the social order. While King 2007 and other works critique the methods of social scientists to isolate facets of the socialization process and generalize about their contributions, empirical and theoretical approaches vary. Perez-Felkner 2013 details the variety of methodologies used to study socialization among children and adolescents, with examples from classic and recent empirical studies.

  • King, Michael. 2007. The sociology of childhood as scientific communication. Childhood 14.2: 193–213.

    DOI: 10.1177/0907568207078327

    This article identifies limitations in the logic of sociological inquiry in understanding generalizable social facts about children and their socialization process.

  • Lutfey, Karen, and Jeylan T. Mortimer. 2006. Development and socialization through the adult life course. In Handbook of social psychology. Edited by John Delamater, 183–202. New York: Springer US.

    DOI: 10.1007/0-387-36921-X_8

    Reviewing the history of socialization as a concept and its general processes, this chapter focuses on the socialization within the adult life course, defined as the time after the completion of secondary or postsecondary Education. The authors focus on how the temporality and heterogeneity of individual biographies impact socialization processes, such as new role acquisition and life experiences, after the transition to adulthood.

  • Perez-Felkner, Lara. 2013. Socialization in childhood and adolescence. In Handbook of social psychology. 2d ed. Edited by John Delamater and Amanda Ward, 119–149. New York: Springer.

    Focusing on processes of socialization within early life, Perez-Felkner reviews theoretical approaches to socialization, methods of studying socialization, and how Contexts Of Socialization produce myriad outcomes that reproduce social inequalities.

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