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Socialization: The Life Course

Socialization: The Life Course

Author: Paul Hannan

Recognize how socialization impacts people at different stages of the life course, including childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age.

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Source: Intro Music by Mark Hannan; Public Domain Tree Public Domain Acorn Public Domain

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[MUSIC PLAYING] Welcome to this episode of Sociology-- Studies of Society. Today's lesson is on socialization, the life course. As always, don't be afraid to pause, stop, rewind, or even fast forward to make sure you get the most out of this tutorial.

So today we're looking at socialization. Now, socialization is a pretty broad term. And it really just is about how humans learn about culture and how we learn to interact in this social world.

And there are many, many different agents of socialization. There's families. There's peers. There's schools. There's mass media. There's religion. The list goes on, and on, and on.

But really I guess if you look at those four-- sorry, those five on your screen, those are really some of the five most important ones. But today we're focusing on the life course. Now, the life course is a perspective on sociology that really looks at trajectories.

So this idea that looking across someone's life. What are some similarities or some differences as people progress across their lives? And it's looking at how those progressions are shaped really, from something small, as an infant, to an old person.

Now, I'm going to break down socialization into a couple different stages here. These aren't really hard and fast categories. But they're really an interesting way to think about socialization. So how we're learning how to interact, interact in a functional world.

When we're looking at childhood, here we're going to consider childhood really between infants and 12-year-olds. Now, childhood, when you think about it, it's really a time of carefreeness in life. You aren't really worried about a lot. You can just have fun, and learn, and play. And that's what childhood is all about.

Now, childhood can actually be shortened or lengthened based on the situation that children are living in. But generally speaking, most people go through childhood until about 12 years old.

Now, in adolescence, this is the time between childhood and adulthood. So this is a time of transition. And you notice, I didn't give any ages for this one. That's because the times here fluctuate even more than for the other sections.

And this transition between childhood and adulthood can be really emotionally stressful. And it really can be drama-filled. And throughout this process, we're finding ourselves.

Next comes adulthood. Now, adulthood is a time of independence. When we think about adulthood, you rely on other people. You're part of a community. But you are your own person. You're in charge of your own decisions.

And it can really be accomplishment filled. So at this stage of your life, you've done some of your prepping for accomplishment. Now, you're actually succeeding in doing things. And I like to think that in this time of life, you are actually creating stuff.

Lastly, comes old age. Now, old age is, of course, the end of adulthood. And this is generally in the late 60s. And here we're reflecting on what has happened in our lives.

And we're also dealing with the fact that we're old. Our bodies act differently. Our brains act differently. So we reflect on what we did in the past. And then we also are dealing with the new situations surrounding our bodies.

Now specifically when we look at these four different stages, a really important term that you could think about is a "cohort." So a cohort is a group of people with similar features. This term can be used in a lot of different settings.

You might often hear it when you join a new company, or you start with a class, and you're going to go through a bunch of classes with the same group of people. That can be called a cohort. It's often used looking at age as well. So a cohort would be like, the teenagers you grew up with, you might all be a cohort.

Gerontocracy is a society where old people have most the power. I have a pretty generic graph there for you. It's just looking at how America, as we're progressing here, a lot of the population is going to be getting older. Just because you have more people in that population, it doesn't mean you have more power. But a gerontocracy, this is a society where the old people have all the power.

Now, gerontology is studying aspects of aging in old people. So that's a subset, that specifically are just looking at aging in old people. And then ageism is just discriminating against an individual or group because of his or her age.

So socialization is just how culture is learned and how humans learn to function in a social world. There are four different stages in the life course of socialization. There's childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. And then we also looked at the idea of what a cohort is. So that's just a group of people with some similar feature.

Gerontocracy, which is a society where the old people have most of the power. Gerontology, which is studying aspects of aging in old people. And ageism, which is discriminating against an individual or group because of his or her age.

Well, that's it for this lesson. Good work. And hopefully you'll be seeing me on your screen again soon. Peace.

Terms to Know

A socially constructed period of the life course that is associated with the teenage years that is often confusing to navigate because it is caught between childhood and adulthood.


A socially constructed period of the life course that comes after the teenage years and goes until about age sixty. This is the period where most of our accomplishments take place, including raising a family and pursuing a career.


Discrimination against the elderly and the ageing in society.


A socially constructed period of the life course that goes from birth to approximately age 12.


A group of people that share some common characteristic like age.


A social arrangement in which the elderly have the most power, wealth, and prestige.


The study of the biological and social aspects of ageing and the elderly.

Old Age

A socially constructed period of the life course that refers to the later years in life, generally those after sixty.


The lifelong process of learning one's culture and of internalizing the norms and behaviors considered appropriate of adults in society.