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Family as an Agency in Socialisation

Socialisation is the process in which we learn the norms and values of the society we live in. Agents of socialisation are people or groups that assist individuals in the socialisations. These include the family and peer groups among others. The family is a primary agency in socialisation. It can be argued that at a young age the family is the most dominant agent of socialisation and therefore has a direct influence on gender roles and identities.

Ann Oakley (1981) argues that children are socialised into their gender roles and identities by the family in four ways. The first of these ways is Manipulation. This consists of parents and other relatives encouraging behaviour that is seen as the norm for the child’s gender and discouraging behaviour that is not considered the norm e. g. congratulating a boy for completing an obstacle course but discouraging a girl from attempting the obstacle course. The second method described by Oakley is Canalisation.

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This consists of parents channelling the child’s interests into activities that are considered the norm for their gender e. g. encouraging girls to do ballet and encouraging boys to play football. The third of Oakley’s methods was Verbal Appellations. This involves giving children nicknames or pet names that are appropriate for their gender e. g. sweetheart for girls and tough guy for boys. The last of Oakley’s methods was Different Activities. This is when parents or family members encourage children to involve themselves in different activities e. . girls staying inside to help their mothers cook and boys are more likely to be given permission to roam outdoors. The methods identified by Ann Oakley describe how the family can be considered the most important influence on gender roles and identities as it shows that children can be socialised into their gender roles and identities from a young age. Another way that the family as an agency of socialisation shapes social class identity is because parents pass on their levels of economic, cultural and social capital.

Reay argued that middle class mothers have greater levels of capital and so they and so they are more equipped at helping their children in school. Sugarman also looked at how family as an agency of socialisation shapes social class identity. He argued that values passed on from parents to children shape their behaviour and identities. He argues that middle class children are taught the value of deferred gratification and working class.


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