The Socialization Process and Its Impact on Children and Learning
By Dr. Ralph G. Perrino
Family, school, peers, mass media, public opinion, and
religion each play a major role in the socialization and,
ultimately, the education process. Each of us proceeds
through life in a manner that we often believe is under our
immediate control and influence. It seems logical that the
actions we take and the impact of those actions is based
upon a series of logical, rational, decisions selected and
filtered by choice, not chance. Although this seems a
reasonable manner in which to assess one’s lot in life, it
is far from reality, particularly in the area of education.
One of the most dramatic impacts on a child’s education is
that of the socialization process.
Forces removed from our immediate decision-making process
guide us all. Through the process of socialization, the
hidden hand of social forces beyond our control guides our
lives. The major agents of socialization – family, school,
peers, mass media, public opinion, and religion – exert
pressure on each of us. The evolution of “self” emerges from
this mix of social forces. This is particularly true during
the formative years from kindergarten through high school.
The impact of these forces can vary dramatically from person
to person. The consequences can be life altering and severe.
The idea that each child enters school with the same
opportunities that foster success is not a valid assumption.
In fact, many things have a profound impact on children and
teens. Among these are 1. The family from which ascribed
status is derived 2. Attendance at a public school or
private school 3. The composition of peer groups 4. Exposure
to mass culture and the media and 5. Religious affiliation.
The socialization process, by definition, creates a system
that is inherently unequal by most empirical measures of
equality. This inequality has both short-term and long-term
implications for the academic success of children.
Given an economic system that offers equality of
opportunity, but in practice fosters disparities between
social classes, the questions that must be asked are: How
does the education system provide the level playing field
that society desires? What are the roles of school as well
as the other agents of socialization in ensuring equal
opportunity for all children from the elementary through
As the primary agent of socialization and the first
“educator”, the family, plays an essential role in the
transmission of the fundamental values that encourage and
nurture learning in a young child. Studies have demonstrated
that children from homes in which both parents have college
educations have a much higher probability of academic
success as well as personal and professional success. The
opposite is also true. Children from homes in which parents
do not possess a college education will have a more
difficult time achieving academic success. The disparity
inherent in this environment demonstrates the importance of
the family and its role as the transmitter of values. The
institution of the family in America is the primary purveyor
of education as a core value regardless of educational
background. For some, it comes by way of birth and
privilege. For others, it comes by way of perseverance, hard
work, and persistence in the face of adverse economic
factors. Regardless, the likelihood of academic success is
minimal without the family as a guiding force.
Few parents would deny the increasing influence of peers in
the lives of children and young adults. Unfortunately, it is
often a very negative influence. The most detrimental
manifestations of this are drug and alcohol use, premature
teen sexual activity, and other socially proscribed
behaviors. It is at this time in a middle school child’s
life that peer influences develop in the area of academic
achievement. Being ostracized and chastised for “being
smart” is a common burden placed on otherwise high-achieving
students, particularly minority students. At this point in a
student’s socialization process teachers, parents, and other
adult role models play a vital role.
Mass media also has an immense impact on young minds. With
the advent of the Internet, television now has a partner in
the role of visual stimulant of young minds. The culture
portrayed by the mass media emphasizes glamour, sexual
satisfaction and promiscuity, comedic vulgarity, violence,
and immediate gratification of needs. How does a parent cope
with the influences of the mass media as an agent of
socialization that minimizes the learning process and
glorifies the values of instant gratification? Again, the
role of adults in a child’s life in this environment takes
on increased importance.
The role of religion in the lives of children and young
adults has been minimized by society. This trend has, along
with the previously mentioned influences of peers and the
mass media, resulted in a generation of teens with a moral
compass that has gone awry. The role of religion as an agent
of socialization cannot be ignored. It is a primary
transmitter of our core personal and societal values. The
founding documents of America contain strong reference to
the values of equality, freedom, fairness, and
egalitarianism – all fundamental precepts of most religions.
Leaders such as Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln and
others have called upon religious values and teachings to
awaken the moral sensibilities of the nation throughout our
history. Without the socializing influences of religion, the
powerful external forces faced by teens – drugs, a
sexualized culture, violence, negative peer pressures, and
other dysfunctional influences - become more influential.
Parents need to be aware of the stabilizing influences of
religion in a child’s life and realize that religion is not
so much a polarizing issue as it is an important element of
the socialization process.
The socialization process has an enormous impact on children
and teens in the context of the learning process. Family,
school, peers, mass media, and religion each play a role in
the collective process we term education. Parents must
recognize that each of these agents of socialization
maximize the role of education in our children’s lives.
Anything less is an abdication of our responsibility as
adult role models for our children and for future