Agents of Socialization

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11603

Who is the biggest influence on your life? How did you learn to say and do what you say and do, especially around others? Learn the role and influence of society members, and write a thoughtful essay!


People and Their Environment

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!


Which of the following do you believe has had the biggest impact on you?

  • family
  • peers
  • school
  • the media

Discuss your response with your parent or teacher.

How did you learn to walk and talk?

How did you know to shake someone's hand "Hello" or not to barge in line? All of these things were learned through the process of socialization.

Socialization is the interactive actions taken through which people learn skills, values, and the expectations of a society. The socialization process results in both intended and unintended consequences.

  • Intended consequences includes those skills, values, or expectations that the person was supposed to learn.
  • Unintended consequences are unforeseen or unplanned results of socialization.

For example, when reading the book Cinderella, an intended consequence might be that a child learns to remain positive and keep working so that good things will happen. However, an unintended consequence might be that they learn that step-mothers and step-sisters are cruel.

Sociologists (people who study social behavior) refer to individuals, groups, and institutions that enable socialization, as agents of socialization. There are four main agents of socialization: family, peers, school, and the mass media. If an individual does not yet know the rules and values of a society, he or she is referred to as unsocialized.

You will now read about an extreme case of child neglect in which the young girl was not socialized. As you read, make a list of all the ways in which she was unsocialized. The case is from 1970, but the article, "Starved, tortured, forgotten: Genie, the feral child who left a mark on researchers" (Rory Carroll, ©2016 Guardian News and Media Limited) appeared in The Guardian in July, 2016.

Discuss with your parent or teacher all the ways in which "Genie" was unsocialized.

In some cases, people are resocialized. Resocialization refers to a learning of different values and norms, as might be the case if an individual moves to a different country or joins the military.

In the Got It? section, you will practice what you have learned about these terms by identifying how socialization may take place.

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