How Culture is Related to Socialization

The best construct for understanding the factors that make up the concept of “culture” was provided by Krober and Kluchohn (1952). Narrowing their sixteen definitions down to the most commonly used ones is even more helpful.

There is “High Culture”, which applies to the arts, pilosophical and ethical thought, literature, and other facets of the humanities.

There is “Symbolic and Social Culture”, which provides the standard set of knowledge, behavior and belief sets when individuals are able to understand the symbols and references that are integral to the process of social learning.

There is “Institution, Organization and Group Culture” in which the concept of sharing or agreeing that certain values, goals and practices represent the institution or group’s social identity.1

The best construct for understanding the process of “socialization” is to consider the individual’s ability to learn the behaviors and process that allow them to function in society through social interaction. In some cases, socialization and “enculturation”, where the individual is educated by and about a particular culture to acquire that culture, are considered to be integrated activities. Other cases require separation of the two for purposes of study. 2

As the individual develops and matures as a biological entity, the individual develops cognitive abilities that allow for learning and understanding of the more complex concepts of society and culture. In some cases, the cognitive development of an individual in relation to socialization and enculturation, is a separate area of study.3

The process of cultural socialization is not a simple one, where the child or newcomer is simply forced or crafted into a lean, mean social machine. There is the conflict between the human entity’s individuality and the requirements that are imposed by others. As a result, successful socialization and enculturation have occurred with the individual incorporates the learning and accepts the concepts as a voluntary process or decision that is based on free will.

When comparing childhood socialization to adult socialization, immigrant experience provides a great example. As one parent changes location and enters a new culture, there is already established institutional values, behaviors, knowledge and belief sets. Some of these are replaced with those of the new society in order to be able to function in the new society. Others are retained in the household or in socializing with friends who come from the original society.

The degree to which the immigrating parent adopts the new culture will determine the degree of complex cultural and social conflict and duality that the children will undergo. In some cases, as with some Hmong immigrants to California, where the rejection of the new culture was so severe that the children suffered devastating emotional and mental upset. The “Radio Shack” hostage situation in Sacramento, CA during 1974 was the defining incident in the ongoing conflict that first generation Hmong children were suffering.

In better situations, the children of immigrants are immersed in dual cultures and societies from the time that they enter into the world. They are dually encultured and socialized and think nothing of it, because that is what they know. They can then function in both societies as they develop the cognitive abilities to understand increasingly complex concepts and situations.

The grandchildren of immigrants are almost completely socialized in the new culture, but through interactions with their grandparent, may have quite detailed and well incorporated understandings of aspects of the original culture of their grandparents, depending on how much they are taught and how much they learn.

An interesting aspect of larger immigration movements is that the new culture also adopts aspects of the immigrant’s culture, so that Americans who grow up in diversely populated Western states adopt the elements of many cultures, as do the less segregated residents of major urban centers, such as London, New York, and San Francisco.

As a result, socialization and enculturation is a process that may extend into the much later years of life as humans travel, live in other countries, or engage with others in their home community.


Notes 1-3 Wikipedia Culture

Gerald Handel, ed., “Childhood Socialization” 2006, Transaction Publishers, Rutgers-The State University