Unlike sex which is a biological concept, gender is essentially a social concept which gains prominence in the backdrop of the society. The society has various roles associated with the particular genders and through the process of socialisation makes the respective individual aware of their respective role in the society (Chafetz, 2006). This leads to a harmonious integration of the concerned individual with the society as the individual makes attempt to fit in the particular gender construct. Two significant agents of socialisation in this regard are family and education which play a critical role in inculcating gender roles for a child (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006).
Gender Socialisation From a Functionalist Perspective
From a functionalist school of thought, the various activities that are undertaken are essentially functional in nature and therefore beneficial to the maintenance of harmony in the society. In order to ensure that the continuity of the society is maintained, the process of socialisation is pivotal (Harlambos & Holborn, 2008). This process is responsible for developing the notion of gender in the children so as to ensure that the behaviour of the child is consistent with the expected role associated with the given gender. This allows for the given child to be easily integrated into the society going forward and also ensures that any unwanted conflict is avoided (Giddens & Griffiths, 2006).
Family As An Agent Of Gender Socialisation
A child is absolutely indifferent to the notion of gender and related social norms. The family acts as the primary agent of socialisation which makes the child aware of the various aspects of gender (Ritzer & Stepnisky, 2013). In this regards, the particular emphasis is on gender roles which is typically visible in the childhood games where the female is portrayed as the homemaker unlike the male counterpart who earns a living. Gradually, as the child grows older, other aspects such as grooming, dressing etc. also tend to play a critical role in the gender socialisation (Chafetz, 2006).
Education As An Agent Of Gender Socialisation
Unlike family, which acts as the primary socialisation agent, education acts as a secondary gender socialisation agent. It has both latent and manifest functions. Through education, the child gets to know about the society including the roles of the two genders and the underlying sets of expectations which over a period of time get internalised (Chafetz, 2006). Additionally, it serves the latent purpose of ensuring that the existing gender norms are not questioned and these are validated through education. Also, peer to peer influence in critical in furthering the gender socialisation as appropriate social behaviour and gender identity tends to develop through these interactions (Harlambos & Holborn, 2008).
Gender socialisation plays a key role in the continuation of society as it enables conflict free integration of the individuals belonging to the different genders to assume their expected gender roles. In this regards, the two most significant socialisation agents are family and education. Family tends to introduce a child to the notion of gender through their behaviour and activities which then is carried forward by education which serves latent function of maintaining the traditional gender identities into place.
Chafetz, J.S. (2006), Handbook of the Sociology of Gender, Texes: Springer Publications
Giddens, A. & Griffiths, S. (2006), Sociology, Cambridge: Polity Press
Harlambos, M. & Holborn, M. (2008), Haralambos and Holborn - Sociology Themes and Perspectives, London: Collins International
Ritzer, G. & Stepnisky, J. (2013), Sociological Theory, New York: McGraw Hill Publications