If there is one thing that characterizes the human race, it is that we are social animals and our personal development is very much conditioned by the degree of socialization we achieve. This does not necessarily imply the achievement of a large number of relationships, but rather the skills we develop to achieve them.

The process that aims at integration into society and successful interaction with others is known as socialization. This process can be divided into two phases according to the person’s stage of life: primary socialization and secondary socialization .

What is socialization?

The socialization process refers to the contact between people through which we learn and accept and integrate a series of behavioral guidelines and adapt to them.
This process has the objective of inculcating in the person the socio-cultural elements that are characteristic of their environment, these elements are shaped by personal experiences and by social agents, and integrated into the personality of the individual.

Through socialization, the person develops and enhances the skills necessary for proper integration and contribution to social life, generating patterns of behavior and organized behavior in line with society.

But this whole socialization process would not be possible without the social agents . Social agents are considered to be all those persons or institutions with which the person relates. Without them, there is no type of socialisation.

Family, school, friends and equals, as well as institutions and influential people belong to the category of social agents; the most important being the family, since it is the person’s first social contact and the school, since it is the main transmitter of knowledge.

But this socialization does not take place at a single moment in life, but lasts for years. Therefore, depending on the stage the person is in we can talk about primary or secondary socialization.

Primary socialization and its agents

This first phase of socialization takes place in the person’s family context. This is followed by educational institutions in which the individual begins to generate other relationships with friends and peers, outside the family nucleus.

There is no specific event or signal that serves as an end point for this stage, as this can change depending on the person, the social context and the culture in which it takes place.
The social agents characteristic of this stage and which cause the first relations with the person are: the family, the school and the media.

1. Family

The family, above all the closest and most intimate family nucleus , has the responsibility to attend to both the physical needs of the individual, as well as the psychological needs.
Likewise, the family dynamics will determine the evolution of the person both on a personality level and on a cognitive and behavioural level.

Relationships with parents and siblings provide essential information for the child on how to interact with other people, thus generating basic behaviour patterns that will allow him/her to adapt better to society in the future.

2. School

On the other hand, once the child begins the academic stage, school becomes another primary social agent. The school provides the opportunity to relate daily with friends and peers , making the child aware that there may be differences in the way he or she proceeds, acts and thinks about others.

In addition, the relationship between faculty and students provides the knowledge that institutional hierarchies also exist and how to interact with them.

3. Media

Finally, a socializing agent that is becoming increasingly important is the media. In addition to traditional media such as television, press or radio; the advance of the Internet and social networks is having a significant effect on the way people socialise.

It is impossible to ignore the change that has taken place in the way of socializing, influenced by social networks. These have managed to alter the dynamics and behaviour patterns of people in relation to interaction with others.

Secondary socialization

This second phase occurs during the last stage of adolescence , after which the person begins in adulthood and puts into practice everything learned at home and in the educational context.
In this subsequent socialisation, the person (who already possesses previous social skills) is incorporated into other sectors of society, which allows her/him to learn new resources in other areas that are, in principle, unknown.

Through this process, the person assimilates that there are other contexts and realities that differ from what was known during primary socialization. In this case, the university, labour bodies and political and governmental institutions exercise strong power in socialization.

Moreover, unlike primary socialization, in the secondary stage the person has a wide margin of action, in which he or she is free to decide how to act.

Is there a tertiary socialization?

There is indeed a tertiary socialization, with the difference that instead of a stage it is a different level of socialization in which those who have experienced a deviation from what is considered the social norm have the opportunity to reintegrate into society.

These cases occur in people with criminal or punishable conduct; who through a process of resocialization readjust their behavior. In the latter case, the socializing agents are linked to the authorities and even to the prison.