Factors Affecting Socialization of a child

Child Socialization


Factors Affecting Socialization of a child 


Dr  Jane Adebusuyi

I thank the Public Health Nursing Dept of this hospital for inviting me to deliver an academic paper at its 15th Annual Seminar/Workshop.

The Theme of this year’s workshop is quite appropriate “Adolescent Health-A Valued National Asset”. Indeed  human resources  are the greatest asset in any organization and any country. In order to sustain the human race from generation to generation, the youths who are the leaders of tomorrow must be valued and well socialized so that they can become “assets” and not “liabilities” in the society.

 Focusing of this workshop on the adolescent is quite significant because adolescence is a vulnerable age group. It is the generation caught between “childhood” and adulthood. The adolescent has the tendency to engage in exploratory behaviour of which they lack reliable experience of life.

Stanley Hall a pioneer in Post Childhood development referred to adolescence as a period of great “storms” and “stress”. How a child is brought up usually affects how he or she is able to withstand the “storm of life”.

. My assignment therefore is to discuss the” factors affecting the socialization of a child”. I am a Sociologist and Anthropologist by academic background and Medical Social Worker by profession hence my presentation will be from a Socio scientific perspective.


Distinguished  ladies and gentlemen, Man is a social animal and interacts with other human beings. It is a common adage that “no man is an island” and no normal human being can live in isolation of  other human beings. Encarta 2009 defines a child as a ‘young human being while United Nations  Convention on the rights of the child  regards a human being below the age of 18yrs as a child.

Childhood is the most plastic period in development, when personality is easiest to mould.  Even the critics of Psychodynamic school of thought in Psychology cannot deny the significance of early childhood experiences in shaping adult personality.Hence the importance of this concept of “Socialization”. Is it true that no man is born a criminal and that society made him so?

What is Socialization?

Several definitions have been suggested by sociologists and psychologists to explain   “Socialization”. Hurlock (1973) defines it as“ a process of learning to conform to group standards, mores and customs”. Mukherjee (1978) views Socialization as “the slow and gradual transformation of the helpless infant to mature adult behaving within the norms of his contemporary society”.

How important is Socialization?

Sigmund Freud, the founder of Psycho analysis and the most influential analyst of human behaviour of the past century stressed the importance of Socialization in the emotional dynamics of  personality  development . Chauhan (1988) says that” childhood experiences are decisive determinants of personality in later life”.

     Hypothetical illustrations

  1. Two identical twins with similar genetic endowment were brought up and socialized in 2

different environments. Twin X  lived in her local village in Delta State with aged and poor grandparents, she  never went to school. Twin Y was taken to USA when she was 6 months old to live with a Rich Aunty. She  attended  one of the best schools in Louisiana

Twins X and Y met after 16 years of separation. The different environments of  socialization will manifest and the “difference will be clear”

  1. A day old human infant was abandoned in a jungle. Some lions found her, captured her but instead of killing her, nursed and nurtured her. When she was found 9months later she behaved exactly like a lioness except for the physical features of a human being.

A major function of Socialization therefore is to transform the raw human material into a   social being.

The Agents of Socialization

Some of the agents of Socialization are as follows:

The family, The peer group, The school, The media, The religious organizations,NGOs /CBOs

However, for the purpose of this presentation, greater emphasis will be laid on “the family” because as Sokan and Akindele(1994) rightly said “the family is the nucleus of the society”

The family as an agent of Socialization

According to Erinosho (2005) the family is “the basic social unit in all human societies”

Functions of the family

  1. Procreation and regulation of sex
  2. Socialization of the children
  3. Provision of economic resources
  4. Provision of psycho social support

Holistic Perception of the family

 Ideally the family should be a strong bio-psycho-social unit i.e. a biological, psychological and social unit. The family is a biological unit with its major function of procreation and regulation of sex. It is also a psychological and social unit where members interact and give each other the necessary psycho- social support. From this point of view the family can be classified as emotionally fertile or emotionally barren. Each type of family has influence on the children. The child is usually referred  to as the “Mirror of the family”.

Herbert 1980 opined that “ the family serves the function of socializing its members. This social roles includes, teaching the child socially accepted behavior, norms, values, dressing, acquisition and use of language, eating habits , control of aggression, development of sex roles, morality etc.




Significance of the Home Environment

The social environment of the home greatly influences the personality development of each person. Poverty sometimes affects the socialization process. Imagine a child brought up in an environment where father ,mother and 8 children share one multipurpose room. The inquisitive child might become a “non participant observer” when the parents are carrying out their matrimonial duty at night .

Poverty of parents has also led some young girls astray. We have heard stories of some commercial sex workers claiming that “poverty” forced them into the dangerous business. Some even use the proceeds to feed their parents and educate their siblings while compromising their morality and reproductive health. Because one’s earliest and closest ties are usually with parents and family members, family experiences carry a special emotional weight in shaping the personality . It is therefore unfortunate that in many Nigerian homes of today “ the socialization function of the family has been taken over by the “house help” while the  parents are running the naira race at top speed. Ideally the house girls names should appear in the documents of some children because they are  actually “the next of kin”. The relationship between marital partners also influences the socialization of their off springs. Children socialized in homes showing family discord pattern were generally poorly adjusted in their social environment. In Medical Social Work Practice it has been observed that the child is usually the scapegoat of marital conflicts, when two elephants clash, the grass usually suffers. Herbert (1977) reported that emotionally barren homes are characterized by scenes of frequent arguments. Physical violence and avoidance of partners. Medical Social Workers offer Family Therapy in these problematic situations.


Parenting Styles and Social Development of children

Parenting styles can be classified as autocratic, democratic and permissive or laissez faire.

Autocratic parenting style

This parenting style is autocratic or dictatorial. In this type of setting, parents play a domineering role in establishing conducts of behaviour that are to be adhered to without providing explanation. Disciplinary measures are predominantly  harsh and forceful. Children brought up in this type of environment are unhappy, insecure and lack confidence. Cases of child abuse are common  in this type of family setting. Such cases are handled by community based social workers

Permissive parenting style

In this setting, parents hardly exercise any parental control. The erring children are not corrected and policy of “do as you like, I cannot be bothered ” is in place. Parents in this setting operate “laissez faire” care free attitude. An adolescent from this setting can come home at 2am in a drunken state, can wear anything and is free to be naked in the name of fashion. An adolescent in this setting will exercise no self control and this “excessive freedom” can ruin him or her.

Democratic parenting style

This is the ideal parenting style, children are given the opportunity of making decisions but are guided by the parents. In this setting , children feel free to discuss their problems with their parents, including issues of sexuality. Children brought up in this setting are confident,  have self control and  are assertive.

The Peer group as an Agent of Socialization                                                                                                                    Grolier (1971) defines a peer as “ one of the same rank or qualities: Peer groups are usually group of friends sharing same views and values and usually interact regularly, hence are able to influence each other. Sayings like “Birds of the same feather flock together” and “Show me your friends and I will tell you who you are” are usually found to be true. With peer group influence, young people seek to break away from parental constraints and establish independent  identity.

The peer group usually consist of individuals who have certain common features e.g  age, class or school, mode of dressing, mode of talking, hair styles, choice of music etc. Peers really influence adolescent behaviour because most teenagers spend much time in the company of peers than their parents. The adolescent wants to belong and “flow” with the others e.g to avoid being mocked for being a virgin or for not taking alcoholic drinks or smoking



The influence of the peer group is extremely potent. The expectations of parents and peer group often conflict and the adolescent is being pulled in a tug of war between the opposing arms of socialization.

The School as an agent of socialization: The school is the place where formal education takes place. It should however be noted that informal but significant education also takes place there. With our 6-3-3-4 educational system, a child will be in school for 16 continuous years. The school has been found to play a vital role in the process of socialization and in shaping personality. Not only is the school to transmit skills and practical knowledge but important cultural values as well as patriotism, ambition, concern for others etc. In the school, the child will meet teachers, non academic staff members and other students. In fact many peer groups are school based as well. Some schools are noted for some qualities which are passed from one generation to another. Hence we have comments like:

Are you surprised that that boy is a ruffian, don’t you know he attended X high school?

No wonder that lady is neat, brilliant and well behaved, she attended Z college?

Faith based educational institutions are playing a significant role in the moral upbringing of the youth even up to University level.

Role of the school teacher

The school teacher is specifically charged with the sole aim of achieving cognitive, affective and psychomotor objectives of formal education. The school teacher is an influential agent of socialization. The way a teacher handles the child may affect the emotional and intellectual condition of the child for ever. It is remarkable that most schools now have Guidance counselors to assist students with their psycho social and educational problems.

Students often regard their teachers as their role models hence they need to be decent and morally upright and leading by example.


In contemporary society the print and electronic media contribute to the socialization of the individual and shapes personality.

With the information they make available ,the models of behavior they provide, the values they express and illustrate, the experiences- vicarious thrills, entertainment, horror, etc that they offer ,the mass media can reinforce the effort of the family or dilute them. Many advertisements of products portray indecent dressing, the type of newspapers and magazines read, and T V programmes watched all have effect in shaping personality. In this age of advanced Information Technology, access to various websites on the internet is affecting the youth- from email to  Facebook  to Twitter-some even date online. It is sad that present day youth are over exposed to pornographic materials. There was a 19yr old houseboy who was watching films on TV late into the night while a 4yr old girl had slept off on the couch. The film became highly sexy and the boy got excited. He ended up raping the innocent child. A lot of horror and violence inducing stuff are inculcated into the youth through the mass media. Even where parental guidance is advised, parents might not even be available.


In the contemporary Nigerian society, the religious organizations have a vital role to play in the socialization of her members. Fear of God, respect for fellow human beings and need to be morally upright are usually emphasized.  Members of a particular denomination might have peculiar attributes which are passed onto new members eg mode of dressing. Some religious organizations organize activities like conferences, seminars, and camping programme for the youth.


Nongovernmental organizations and community based organizations are playing a vital role in the socialization process, especially on the reproductive health of the adolescent. They create awareness on issues related to sexuality and also provide youth friendly environment. Hot lines should be readily available to access their services.



  1. The family should be restored to its status as a strong bio psycho social unit.
  2. Parents must balance work  and family life for proper socialization of the children. We must   not sacrifice our homes on the altar of our career.How can a married woman. request for a permanent night duty? Who is performing her matrimonial duty for her?
  3. Family life education should be part of school curriculum at all levels with special    emphasis on sexuality education.
  4. Parents, counselors in schools, youth centers, churches, mosques and clinics should be youth friendly and accessible so that the youth can confide in them.
  5. There should be adequate recreational facilities in schools and in the community to   positively engage the youth.
  6. The print and electronic media  should be censored so that immorality and violence will   not be propagated in the name of entertainment and advertisement.


Distinguished ladies and gentlemen, I have tried to discuss socialization as a very significant process carried out by various agents. As man is a lump of clay molded by society, socialization process has a great impact on the adult personality.Our children are the leaders of tomorrow. Hence they must be well socialized so that they will be assets and not liabilities to society.

Thank you and God bless




Chauhan, S.S (1988) Advanced Educational Psychology. Belli-Vikas Publishing House.

Herbert, M. (1977) Problems of Childhood. Pan Books. London and Sydney

Hurlock, M (1977) Adolescent Development. Tokyo Mc Graw Hill

Murkherjce, A. (1978) Educational Psychology Calcuta. K.P. Basu Publishing Co.

Sokan B.O& Akinade E.A.(1994) “Developmental Psychology” A basic text  for colleges and universities Caltop Publication (Nig) Ltd