Differences Between Primary & Secondary Socialization

Updated April 17, 2017

A child's primary socialisation begins at birth through interaction with his parents and family---the most important socialisation in an individual's life. At this time, a person begins to form his identity. Opinions differ slightly about where primary socialisation ends and secondary socialisation begins, but secondary socialisation consists of influence that takes place outside the child's initial influences or socialisation; thus, children learn it relative to the values and representations already learnt during primary socialisation.

Religion and Socialization

Because religious affiliation differs from one family to another, socialisation in a religious group may constitute either primary or secondary socialisation. According to a study by Pehr Granqvist and Berit Hagekull's, however, "parental transmission of religious standards is likely not to have been a part of the primary socialisation."

If members of the religious group play an integral role in the child's life from birth and if a parent's values, attitudes and actions conform to like values, the religious socialisation may provide a more primary influence. However, if a parent's values and attitudes counter those represented by the religious group, the religious socialisation will be secondary and the parent will serve as the primary influence.

School and Socialization

School provides a form of secondary socialisation. When a child goes to school, she takes the influence of his primary socialisation (parents and family) and uses it to make sense of what she learns from the new culture of school and the cultures represented by the individuals she encounters there.

According to a study by Ryan Hourigan PhD of Ball State University, however, if the same child grows up and becomes a teacher, her experience as a student represents primary socialisation. She must adjust her perceptions and expectations formed by life as a student to life as a teacher, which represents secondary socialisation.

Television and Socialization

Secondary socialisation continues into adulthood. Joining clubs or sports teams, getting a job and starting a new family all exemplify secondary socialisation. Sociologists such as George Gerbner, formerly of Annenberg School of Communication in Philadelphia, consider television an important and influential form of socialisation. Gerbner founded the Cultivation Theory, which describes the impact television has on world views. In some cases, television can have a negative effect on the way the child views himself.

According to Amy I. Nathanson, "viewing of advertisements is related to lower self-esteem and depression among children who come from low-income families." She claims that the children likely feel bad about themselves because they cannot have the products they see advertised.

bibliography-icon icon for annotation tool Cite this Article

About the Author

June Farquhar has been writing for newspapers and special publications in California since 1998. She's the recipient of a press club award for organizing and designing a 42-page "Red Ribbon Week" tabloid, which received recognition from the California State Assembly and the U.S. House of Representatives. Farquhar studied newspaper journalism at Bakersfield College.