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Poppy Gillane is a student at Sussex Downs College in Lewes studying Sociology, Biology, English Literature and Dance.
The term Socialisation means the process by which we learn acceptable cultural beliefs and behaviour.
There are a number of different stages in which each we all go through during our early life, which sociologists claim determines our behaviour and traits as individuals for the rest of our lives. This important process begins with ‘Primary Socialisation’.
Primary Socialisation starts from the minute a baby is born and carries on developing up until the age of 3 years old. During this primary stage we tiny individuals learn everything that isn’t thought to be innate, from our parents or guardians. Therefore walking, moving and basic reflexes, talking, chewing/swallowing food, holding items and some emotions such as laughter and crying are all considered to be learnt during this period. Sociologists believe this is the most crucial stage in a human beings life where the care given has to be strongly built upon trust and consistent tender loving care. These are classed as the vital factors of what a child needs and thrives on in their first three years of life.
If for some reason the child lacks the attention, love and affection from their primary caregivers, evidence and research has shown that the individual child who has suffered from the deprivation will behave extremely differently from those that have had continuous TLC from day one. Findings of Feral Children suggest strong proof of this and have led sociologist to believe it to be almost certainly true. Cases such as ‘Oxana Malaya’ a child from Ukraine, who was raised by dogs from the young age of 3 years old, due to both of her alcoholic/drug abuse parents who simply just gave up caring for her. Oxana was found by the authorities in 1991 when she was just 8 years old. Evidence shows her behaviour and mannerisms were remarkably similar to a dogs.
Oxana would walk on all fours; crouch like a wild dog, bark and growl at people who came close to her and would sniff her food before she ate it. Not only did Oxana not behave normally and showed practically no social or language skills, she also failed to understand that when shown a mirror, that it was her own reflection she saw. This particular case gave sociologist’s and psychologist’s proof that children who had not been taught efficiently the way we humans live and behave, would not only lack in social and emotional skills, but could almost be moulded and brought up by anything that showed love and care for it. The most likely reasons Oxana copied the behaviour and mannerisms of the dogs were because they showed her affection, gave her their full attention and were not aggressive towards her. This proves that literally anything can be learnt and imitated by children who are at a young age and that are given the correct sense of love and care.
As the Oxana Malaya case proved that children can in fact be brought up by animals and showed that the child would copy any behaviour and mannerisms shown to them at a young age, cases like Genie Wiley also proved that children with no communication with any sources of life, would also behave dramatically different.
Genie Wiley (real name Susan) was completely deprived of any source of life from when she was born up until she was 13 years old, which was when authorities in Los Angeles found her in 1970. Her father considered her to be retarded from a young age and decided to keep Genie away from the world. He locked her away in a dark room in their house in Los Angeles and shut out all sources of lights, including natural day light which was blocked out why blinds at Genies window. During the day she would be tied to a potty chair which was in her room along with her cot which she would also be tied to during the night. Nothing else was given for Genie in her room and no one would ever go in to see or speak to her, unless she was being spoon fed purified food by her mother a few times a day.
Genie's mother never told anyone about what was happening to Genie throughout the whole of Genies life purely because she was so terrified of her husband and what he might have done to her or Genie. However the day she got the courage and fled the house with Genie, officials were stunned by what they saw. She was still in diapers, couldn’t walk very well and when she did she had no posture and would limp with her crippled and distorted arms up by her chest, she had what officials say ‘the build of a 7 year old’ were she was so undernourished and undeveloped, she had extreme light sensitivity with her eyes due to the day light she had never seen, and was not able to say a thing. This again proved that a child without any primary care given from birth will have no social skills and very poor physical mobility skills.
The ways in which sociologists observe a feral child’s behaviour and socialisation capability is noted firstly by the child’s level of substantial communication with others, therefore speech and basic language skills and also body language. Secondly the levels of empathy felt by the child, will the child understand others emotions and know how to react when faced with them. And lastly their self-awareness, will the child be able to recognize it is them when looking at a mirror.
After Primary Socialisation comes the ‘Secondary Socialisation’ stage. This usually happens roughly from when the child is aged 3 +. It’s believed this is the period where we learn behaviour from our friends, our school (this is called an ‘Agent of Socialisation’, an institute from which we learn behaviour and how to behave correctly), the media – tv programmes, books, religion etc.
By this time, Sociologists believe our basic skills and understanding of emotions should have pretty much developed and as we get older we begin ‘Anticipatory Socialisation’ which allows us to imagine ourselves in a particular role before we actually get there. For example, teenagers begin to picture themselves in certain career sectors e.g. Medicine or Law.
However for feral children, this stage tends to not develop as well and ‘Re-socialisation’ becomes more of a priority. This term means the need or requirement to learn new ways of life for different roles in society. For example, Feral Children need to understand the basics of life, and simple tasks need to be learnt. They struggle to re-socialise because they have never learnt to empathise, talk or trust anyone. They find it hard to understand others behaviour if they have never encountered it before and as they have no self-awareness, they do not understand right from wrong.
In conclusion, the Socialisation Process tells us that without love, care, comfort and stability we as individuals will certainly be affected. Mainly in positive ways if these have factors have been given well but if abuse has occurred, it will definitely affect the child in a bad way and have negative effects. This suggests the Primary Stage really is the most crucial period in a person’s life.