How Do Contemporary Socialization Techniques Effect Childhood Development?
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Literature Review: David Riesman’s ( 2002) concept of other-directedness characterizes the majority of society today. He labeled other-directed the tendency of post 1950 American society to be more influenced by the media and social peers than ever before (Riesman  2002), p. 24-28). This results in a lack of individuality, change in social organization of family and academic units as well as vast differences in the socialization techniques of children. societies over time and dysfunction due to social factors. Riesman ( 2002) argues that the shifts in society are dependent on demographic shifts in population growth, mobility, and technology. The transition from an inner-directed society prior to 1950 to an other-directed society after 1950 affected many aspects of American social life. Riesman ( 2002) stresses that the roles of the family and social situation in socialization have changed due to media and peer group influence. Similar to Riesman’s theory, Durkheim ( 1951) theorized that the shift towards modernity actually leads people into more isolation and at a loss of personal identity. He presents this aspect of modernity as the “crisis of the modern man” (Durkheim  2001), p. 202). According to Durkheim (1897), periods of economic, social, or political change result in a state of anomie or derangement. Anomic periods lead to dysfunction of society and the suffering of individuals more susceptible to anomie. Durkheim hypothesized that, with this societal dysfunction, individuals and groups experience an increase in suicide rates. Other studies have adopted a Durkheimian approach to analyzing suicide rates. In the American Journal of Public Health (2011) Drs. Feijun Luo, Curtis Florence, Myraim Quipse-Agnoli, Lijing Ouyang, and Alexander Crosby studied the impact of business cycles on United States suicide rates, from 1928-2007. They examined the associations of overall and age-specific suicide rates with business cycles in order to determine a correlation between business cycles and suicide rates for differing age groups. They concluded that business cycles may affect suicide rates, although different age groups may respond differently. The results of this study demonstrated that business cycles are not associated with increasing suicide rates among youth age groups, begging the question what accounts for increasing rates of youth suicide? Erikson believed that childhood plays an important role in personality development. Beginning at birth, each stage builds upon the last and paves the way for later stages. Each stage presents a social crisis and the individual resolution is also influenced by the culture of society and family. The first stage presents the psychosocial conflict between trust versus mistrust. At this point in development, children learn whether or not they can trust the world around them based on the quality and consistency of their care. The development of trust is a crucial trait that contributes to a healthy personality and relationship to other societal factors. In a later stage, termed as identity vs role confusion the development of an Ego identity emerges. This conscious sense of self is dependent on the experiences and information acquire through social integration. Lack of development in this exploration stage results in a weak identity, troubles with fidelity, and no direction in life. I hypothesize that the characteristics of modernity make it increasingly harder to pass Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Synthesizing the works of Riesman, Durkheim and Erikson would help to explain characteristics of an other-directed society. Structure and interaction are crucial in child development, thus, if there is no interaction there is no cognitive development. According to Riesman, periods of demographic transition and opportunities for economic growth weakens the nuclear family, eventually dissolving tradition and inner-directed values. Riesman also denotes changes in parenting techniques in other-directed societies, which can modernly be demonstrated by daycare services becoming one of the “fastest growing industries” (U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics). The reasons previously stated, among others, specifically but not limited to technological innovation, are responsible for the lack of structure when raising children and ultimately contributes to the anomic state and thus failure of Erikson’s stages among developing children and adolescents. Thesis Statement: Due to contemporary socialization techniques, the “post other-directed” era of society will be characterized by high rates of suicide, mental illness and deviance. Theoretical Framework: I propose to tackle my research question through examination and interpretation of existing data including but not limited to: dependence on technology, television and media portrayals, family unit, competition for academic and social achievements, trends among millennial data, and suicide rates. The distinctive aspect of my methodology is that I will be applying sociological as opposed to psychological and medical theories to existing data on the aforementioned issues. Examples of psychological approaches that I will attempt to supersede with the sociological approach include (Hetherington and Cox, 1985), (Kraut et al., 1998), (Van Evra 2004) and (Wallerstein, 1991). I will be using David Riesman’s ( 2002) theory of socialization, as well as Emile Durkheim’s ( 1951) theory on suicide in tandem with the analysis of scholarly articles, data trends, literature and media coverage to demonstrate anomie in contemporary society that ultimately has an effect on psychosocial development. Project Description: Suicide rates have risen dramatically among children in the United States. Additionally, children are increasingly diagnosed with ADHD, depression and exhibit various indicators of stress. These problems are typically approached through the perspectives of psychologists, educators, and medical doctors, but not sociologists. As a result, society’s role in these social problems among children has been neglected. My study will apply the sociological theory of David Riesman as set forth in his widely acclaimed analysis of American culture, The Lonely Crowd ( 2002). I will be analyzing archival data on suicide, depression and mental illness among children and compare this data with various time periods in American history that Riesman sociologically analyzed. I will relate this data to dramatic social changes in American history since 1950 pertaining to the influence of media as well as social media, the role of parents and grandparents in raising children, the impact of the Internet and other social networking sites on socialization and personality development. The key feature of my study will be an application of Riesman’s well-known theory to new data that he could not have foreseen at the time he published his book. The importance of this approach is that it fills in the role of society in social problems in an otherwise reductionist approach taken by psychologists and non-sociologists.
Weber, Madison Kay (2020). How Do Contemporary Socialization Techniques Effect Childhood Development?. Undergraduate Research Scholars Program. Available electronically from