In short, an agent of socialization assists in the development process by influencing the individual. A person learns socialization through agents, which include: the family, the school, the peer group, and the mass media. According to Sociologist Richard Gelles (1990), “The family is the most violent group in society, with the exception of the police and the military.” Nonetheless, the family provides a strong backbone and a reliable foundation; it is considered the most important agent of socialization.
The family assumes the chief responsibility of developing a child, and has a substantial guise in the integration with society. The family is the primary support system for a child, especially during the first phase of their lives when they are physically and, in most cases, emotionally closest to a child. During this time, they will provide the greatest support and influence. This will extend over factors such as values, beliefs, political aspects, religious appetites, and the child’s overall outlook on society in its entirety.
Children’s minds are like sponges that absorb teachings; they will mimic, appreciate, worship, and accept views, behaviors, and even possessions of their parents. It is evident that the social development in a child is heavily manipulated by the family.
Furthermore, the family unit has the ability to effect change to the next generation. Parents inculcate their beliefs and values to their children from a young age, and that value system can be perpetuated from one generation to the next.
Changes in the American Family
The American family has indeed made drastic changes, and these profound shifts are owed largely to women: women’s equality and their entry into the workforce.
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The latter 1960’s became a time of revolution; the Women’s Liberation Movement gave way to a new era of female supremacy, and reformed the current balance of power and rights in America. Women purposefully set to the workforce in swarms, aiming to earn pay equal to men. This caused a domino effect on society at-large.
As cost of living rises, it is unrealistic for couples to rely on the income of one earner; therefore, a two-wage household is ideal. Effectually, husband and wife in majority of families are forced to become significant financial contributors. Consequently, less and less attention is given to children as demanding careers do not allow such elasticity in both parents’ time budget. In addition, in view of both parents spending most of their waking hours at work, their children become latchkey kids. Children come home to an empty house that lacks supervision, guidance, and nurturing. Both parents having to work long hours to maintain a household reduces time with their children. Kids need as much time with their parents, who they idolize, but don’t often receive it. This, of course, leads to the increased commitment of grandparents who now assume the roles and responsibilities of absent parents.
In conjunction, according to the U.S. Census Bureau (2011), procreation has decreased from 1976 to 2008. It is evident that both the cost to raise a child and the consideration of a preoccupied parent are factors in the abatement of conception.
Notwithstanding, as women become more and more self-sufficient, they no longer depend on a husband to support the family. Compensable employment among women validates
and insures them that sustainable living is attainable. Also, women were less likely to view marriage through the prisms of sacrifice, duty, and obligation. Regardless of the human need for intimate relationships, and undying cultural traditions, it’s clear that people who are obligated to be self-sufficient have little patience for unequal, intolerable relationships than those who are dependent, economically; thus, contributing to the growth in divorce rates (U.S. Census, 2011).
In recent times, personal choice has superseded. However, it is still common for individuals to ponder on class, race, and gender.
Many individuals prefer inter-racial marriages and when not, that’s the first family stressor. Children are born into the situation and the issue perpetuates. Regardless of the criteria, it’s the judgment or prejudices of others that make marriage/family life harder than it should. For example, my Japanese co-worker has two half Black, half Japanese children. Her pure Japanese parents never approved of her Black husband, and never adored their ½ black grandchildren. It took many years for her parents to “come around” and accept the situation. On the other hand, her brother married a Japanese wife, had kids, and they were closer to their grandparents than their Afro-American cousins.
Personal choice is more important today than other pressures placed on the individual to choose a partner. Due to media exposure, it is more acceptable to choose a partner outside one’s class, race, and gender.
According to popular culture, a “normal” family consists of a bread-winner (father), a caretaker (mother), and at least one offspring (children). However, the composition of families has changed dramatically since 1960. Diverse families include statuses such as: single-parent, cohabitation, gay and lesbian couples, and blended families (step).
From a positive outlook, diverse families allow for individual prosperity. People no longer have to follow the ways and habits of their forefathers; rather, they are encouraged to exercise their human right, making freedom of choice prevalent. Sexual and marital preference, and multi-tradition, religion, and culture relationships promote a more tolerant society who willingly accepts and is more open-minded to others’ differences.
Negatively speaking, certain family members may not be open to diversity. Considering the family is the most important agent of socialization, the individual will likely contemplate the family’s opinion(s) and may be influenced negatively which could cause friction within the family, the relationship, or both.
Diversity is beneficial if the society doesn’t practice or abandons nationalism. The society must not only be afforded the opportunity, but have strengthened abilities to adapt to diversity.
Pre-World War II
If the trend negatively changed towards traditional (pre-World War II) families, it would ultimately negate all of the progress women made to achieving equal rights. Women’s suffrage may not have come about, women would likely still be inferior to their husbands, working in
factories, and viewed as nothing more than a possession treated poorly. The expectation of women would continue to be restricted, limiting them to being homemakers, and bearing and nurturing children.
In light of World War II, women fought endlessly to find equality in political, economic, and social life and demonstrated against society for equal rights (pay, maternity leave, etc.). The effort put forth by women to enter the labor force has altered the marriage guidelines of their rights and expectations. As women secure their positions within the workforce, they declare their fair share of power within the familial relationship. The mentality of women morphed from restricted to open, homemaker to PhD.
Overall, if the direction of traditional families changed, it would have a considerable impact on women’s rights. In short, their empowerment would either lack the proper fertilization, or be abandoned completely.