Differences Between Primary & Secondary Socialization

A young girl is learning how to play tennis.
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Socialization is the process of learning how best to behave around other human beings. Primary socialization is a term that describes the learning that takes place in the home, from a child's parents and other caregivers. Secondary socialization is what is learned outside the home -- in school, church and work contexts -- from experiences with peers and from other sources such as television and music.

1 Primary Socialization

Primary socialization occurs in the home. Babies are born without any knowledge of how to get their needs met and are dependent on caregivers for everything. Every interaction -- from how adults respond to their cries to learning the intricacies of toothbrushes, shoelaces and how to behave in public -- is part of socialization and conveys a message beyond the passage of information: A child who is treated lovingly learns different lessons from a child who is treated as an inconvenience. Besides direct instruction, children also become socialized by observing their caregivers and siblings interacting and by others' reactions to their own behavior.

2 Secondary Socialization

Secondary socialization occurs when the child begins to navigate independently outside the home. School is a major part of this for most children. At school, they learn how to function in groups, how to deal with strange adults and how to handle new norms and expectations. Other sources of secondary socialization provide more input in different contexts; these include group activities such as Scouting or team sports, unstructured play with peers and messages from media and religious organizations. Ideally, children are unconditionally loved and accepted during primary socialization. This is unlikely to be the case among strangers and peers, making these situations much more complex and challenging.

Anne Pyburn Craig has written for a range of regional and local publications ranging from in-depth local investigative journalism to parenting, business, real estate and green building publications. She frequently writes tourism and lifestyle articles for chamber of commerce publications and is a respected book reviewer.