Human beings are the only species that have to learn what to do.  What is right and what is wrong?  We know that we go through a process of socialization and that we learn what is expected of us.  We know that we learn, but not everyone agrees on what is occurring as we learn.  How do individuals learn the appropriate behaviours, values, and norms that are expected by society?  There are a number of theories that try to explain how our personality develops.  Since socialization can be examined from two perspectives, the psychology and sociology, we will need to consider both.

Psychologist-  they look at the individual and place emphasis on a certain part of learning.  They study the learning process and the roles that external factors have on the individual.

Sociologists- they look more towards society and put emphasis on cultural influences.  They focus on how society affects the individual’s learning process and how they develop as a member in society.

There are three important perspectives when studying personality development.

1)     The Psychodynamic Perspective- Sigmund Freud
                                                               Erik Erikson

2)     The Cognitive Perspective- Jean Piaget

3)     The Symbolic Interaction Perspective- Charles H. Cooley
                                                                            George H. Mead


Freud: Personality Development

Freud suggests that a normal individuals personality consists of 3 components.

·        The Id- is unconscious and occurs at birth.  They are basic instincts.
Psychic energies that can be stored, used, and repressed.
This aspect of the personality is selfish and does not think of society and culture. 

·        The Ego- as individuals grow parts of the id are repressed, and the ego gradually emerges.
 This aspect of the personality is the intelligence.  It allows for reason, to distinguish between right and wrong.  The ego helps the Id.
The ego for the most part is conscious and is guided by society.

·        The Superego- is conscience.
 It is responsible for how an individual sees their gender and how they feel about the opposite sex.
The conscience develops through interaction in society;
 For the most part they coincide with society’s norms.

Freud also believed that a normal individual passes through a number of stages.   


The Oral Stage- occurs for about the first 18 months of life.  There is no fear of punishment and the mouth is a major focus.  Sucking, chewing, and biting provide pleasure.


The Anal Stage- occurs for the next year and a half.  It is now time for some social control, which controlled by the parents.  This usually conflicts with the infants Id.  Individuals need to know that control is pleasurable.  The child is now focusing on their bowels and so are the parents.  If a child does not use the potty they are punished, if they do they are rewarded.  The ego is now emerging.   


The Phallic Stage- occurs around the age of 4 and the child begins to focus on the genital area and gender identity.  The Oedipus Conflict now takes shape.


The Latency Stage- is a period that last until the age of 12.  It is quite peaceful and nothing seems to alter the personality.


The Genital Stage- Begins when puberty starts and ends once a mature adult.  One must remember the Freud only recognized heterosexuality and believed that only real sexuality occurs in men.  His reason for this was because males had a penis.  He also believed that women had penis envy and this lead to them wanting a son, treating their husband like their son, or going into “male occupations”.

He also argued that a person could get stuck in a stage or return to an earlier stage.  This would result into inappropriate behaviour and the individual would become labeled.  

The following chart has been adapted from the book Canadian Society: a changing Tapestry. Pg. 51






1) Oral

Birth to 18 months

Oral gratification

Sucking breast/bottle milk

Putting things in mouth



Nail biting

2) Anal

18months to 3 years

Bowel pleasure

Resist toilet training


Resent authority

Neatness obsession

3) Phallic

3- 6 years

Sex organs and awareness

Love-hate-love relationships with the same sex parent. (Oedipus Complex with boys, and the Electra complex with girls)



Poor opposite-sex relationships

4)  Latency

6 years to puberty

Same gender companionship

Lack of close friends

5) Genital


Dating and marriage

Sexual energy needs to be curbed

Guilt about sexuality

Feeling inadequacy

Poor sexual relationships.

Erikson: Stages of Life

Erikson is the most well known Neo- Freudian.  Erikson took a psychosocial approach and his theory is known as the 8 Stages of life.  He believed that during each stage the individual ego developed due to a combination of psychological characteristics and experiences with the environment.  Erikson also believed that if a stage were not completed then the person would have to return to it later on in life.

The Stages


Nature of Conflict

Central Question

0-18 months

Trust vs. Mistrust

Can I trust my caregiver?

18 months- 4 years

Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

Can I learn to do things for myself?

4-7 years

Initiative vs. Guilt

Can I do things which will win approval?

7-13 years

Industry vs. Inferiority

How can I learn what is expected of me?

13-18 years

Identity vs. Role Confusion

Which role is best suited to my nature?

18-25 years

Intimacy vs. Isolation

How can I form an emotional bond with an opposite-sex person?

25-65 years

Generativity vs. Stagnation

How can I continue to be energetic and learn new things?

65 years

Integrity vs. Despair

How can I continue to be a productive member of society?

Notice that Erikson incorporates the psychological needs of each age group with particular agents of socialization.  To develop a healthy sense of self, the interaction between the person and society is very important.

The stages of Psycho-social Development



Agents that Promote Positive Socialization

Agents that hinder positive Socialization

1) Trust vs. Mistrust

Birth to 1 year

Providing psychological and physical needs

Lack of physical care and uncertain parental love

2) Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt

2 years

Encouragement of exploration through independence and mastering skills; appropriate discipline

Criticism and lock of encouragement of attempts to learn skills; Restrictive and over-protective discipline

3) Initiative vs.Guilt

3-5 years

Encouragement of child’s interests and parental confidence and pride

Criticism of child’s failures

4) Industry vs. Inferiority

6-12 years

Guidance and praise of academic and social skills development

Too great or too little expectations for success in school

5) Identity vs. Diffusion


Role models to help answer “Who am I?”; encouragement of self-esteem and life goals

Lack of role models; inner turmoil from social demands; no sense of identity

6) Intimacy vs. Isolation

Young Adult

Healthy identity; concern for others; involvement in caring relationships

Overemphasis on self rather than others; fear of being hurt through bad relationships

7) Generativity vs. Stagnation

Young and middle Adult

Concern for autonomy and growth of others; work fulfillment; self achievement

Failure to develop concern for others; self-centred and despairing; envy of others

8) Integrity vs. Despair

Later Adult

Self- confidence; complete life; sense of satisfaction

Depressed and unfulfilled; sense of failure

Those terms that are italicized are the positive aspects an individual would hope to develop through socialization.

The charts have been adapted from Canadian Society a changing tapestry, pgs. 25 and 35.


Piaget: Moral Development

After systemic observations Piaget discovered that as children grow they begin to use a more complex cognitive process.  They begin to evaluate more information and begin to evaluate extensive time frames as they pass through stages, but he recognizes that speed may vary.



Explanation of stage

“Morality of Constraints”  or Moral Realism

4-7 years

A child believes that ethical rules are absolute and are delivered from an authority figure, ex. Parent

“Morality of Cooperation” or Moral Autonomy

7-9 years

The rules and later laws are now believed to be products of deliberation and agreement.  Individual’s motives become important and actions are now being judged on the basis of a certain situation.


Cooley: The Looking Glass Self

Cooley was the first to place an emphasis on the importance of the self during socialization.  He suggested that an individual’s perception of himself or herself is based on how they see others reacting to them.  This is known as the “looking glass self” because a person sees themselves how others view them.

This will lead to a certain response with a unique set of emotion.
For example, if the self satisfies social norms, then they will feel a sense of pride.  On the other hand, if the sense of self-conflicts with the norms then one would feel ashamed.

He argues that these are important because they shape an individuals behaviour.  Cooley’s important points are:

1)     The view of the self is created out of the interactions an individual has with others

2)     An individual acquires a sense of self by interpreting.

Mead: Internalization

Mead believed that a child will pass through various phases as he/she learns to internalize the expectations of society.  He also assumes that individuals try to place themselves in another’s shoes to try and figure out what they are thinking.  The results are similar to Cooley, individual’s see themselves as others see them.  

He breaks the development up into 3 phases:

1)     Preparatory/preliminary phase- during this stage internalization has not really begun yet.  The social behaviour during this phase is imitation.  The infant does understand what they are doing. 

2)     Play phase- the child is now engaged in solitary play, there is no or very little interaction.  During this stage children begin to play roles.  They pretend to be a mom, dad, firefighter, teacher, etc.  These roles are considered unstable because children move from one to another.

3)     Game phase- higher level of social behaviour because the individual is beginning to coordinate roles.  A more complete concept of the self can now emerge.  The child can take on a number of roles, which will allow individuals to understand what is expected of them.

   Mead also argues that the self involves two aspects: “I” and “Me”

“I” refers to any impulsive, spontaneous act of the individual.  It is creative and unpredictable, but is socially aware.

“Me” represents a person’s reflection of the understanding of the “generalized other”. (How someone interprets how society expects them to act) 

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