The stages and agents of socialisation

A marriage market?

After reviewing the test in today’s lesson, we clarified our understanding of the stages and agents of socialisation. The stages of socialisation include the primary, secondary and tertiary stage. The agents include family, peers, school and media.

The agents allow for socialisation to occur. During primary socialisation, the family agent is of particular importance. For most cultures, the family agent is the key socisalising agent. Our family is our first reference group (i.e. we refer to the actions of our parents when making decisions about our own actions). Families, of course, vary depending on culture, ethnicity, class and religion. These factors will have a significant impact on a child’s socialisation.

In class, we watched the following clip from the documentary ‘Jesus Camp’, which shows how religion can affect primary socialisation:


We also discussed secondary socialisation. During this stage, peers and the institution of school play a key role in an individual’s socialisation. Peers have grown in importance as a result of mobile phone ownership and internet usage among younger people.

According to the Children’s Participation in Cultural and Leisure Activities Survey conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2008-09), in 2008-09 three-quarters (76%) of 12-14 year olds owned a mobile phone.


For more information on internet and mobile phone usage among young people in Australia click here.

In terms of the role that school plays in an individual’s socialisation, Merton uses the following concepts:

Manifest functions: these socialising functions are the more ‘present’ or ‘obvious’ functions of the institution of school – such as ‘teaching and learning’.

Latent functions: these socialising functions are the less ‘present’ and less ‘obvious’ functions of the institution of school. Another word for ‘latent’ is ‘hidden’. An example of a latent function is the school as a place whereby people of similar backgrounds can find suitable partners (remember that Merton is a functionalist so he is old school). Another example is the school as a place whereby social class can be reproduced. Middle class children learn to become middle class adults (i.e. they learn the key to staying in the ‘club’).


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