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Social Development: Crash Course Sociology #13


Have you ever met a friend’s parents and
realized that your friend was basically a
mini-me of their mom? Not just because they both have brown hair
or a pointy nose. It’s how they talk, the way they both like
making silly puns, their attitudes and beliefs. Now the question is: How much of that
similarity is genetic, and how much is just a function of that fact that your
friend grew up with their mom, and pretty much learned
how to be a human being by watching her? This is the age old question: nature or nurture? Nature is the part of human behavior that’s
biologically determined and instinctive. When a baby latches onto your finger and won’t
let go, and it’s basically the cutest thing in the whole world, it’s not because they
learned to do that – it’s natural. A lot of human behavior, however, isn’t
instinctive – it comes instead from how
you’re nurtured. The nurture part of behavior is based on the
people and environment you’re raised in. And it’s this second part – the social
environment that determines human behavior – that sociologists tend to investigate
and have many different theories about. [Theme Music] To a big extent, we develop our personalities
and learn about our society and culture through a
social process – one known as socialization. Sounds legit, right? But what happens if you don’t have people
around you? Social isolation affects our emotional and
cognitive development, a lot. To get a glimpse into how and why this is, let’s
go to the Thought Bubble to look at sociologist
Kingsley Davis’s case studies on Anna. In the winter of 1938, a social worker investigated a
report of child neglect on a small Pennsylvania farm and
found, hidden in a storage shed, a five-year-old girl. That five-year girl was Anna. She was unwanted by the family she was born into and was passed from house to house among neighbors and strangers for the first six months of her life. Eventually, she ended up being kept in a shed
with no human contact other than to receive food. Kingsley Davis observed Anna for years after
her rescue and wrote about the effects of this
upbringing on her development. When Anna was first rescued, she was unable
to speak or smile, and was completely unresponsive
to human interaction. Even after years of education and medical
attention, her mental development at age eight
was less than that of a typical two-year old. This is a story with both a sad beginning
and a sad ending. Anna died of a blood disorder at the age of
10. And Davis’ study of how isolation affects
young children was only one of many that have
shown how a lack of socialization affects
children’s ability to develop language skills,
social skills, and emotional stability. Thanks Thought Bubble. There are lots of different theories about
how we develop personalities, cognitive skills, and moral behavior, many of which come from
our siblings in social science: psychologists. Take Sigmund Freud. You’ve heard of him: Austrian guy? Liked cigars?
Invented the field of psychoanalysis? One of his main theories was about how personalities
develop. He thought we were born with something called
an id. You can think of the id as your most basic,
unconscious drive – a desire for food, comfort,
attention. All a baby knows is it wants THAT and it will
scream until it gets it. But then we develop the ego and superego to
balance the id. Ego is the voice of reason, your conscious
efforts to rein in the pleasure-seeking id. And your superego is made up of the cultural
values and norms that you internalize and
use to guide your decisions. So if the id is the devil on your shoulder,
the superego is the angel on the other shoulder, and the ego is the mediator who intervenes
when the angel and devil start fighting. Now, a lot of Freud’s work hasn’t stood
the test of time, but his theories about how society affects our
development has influenced pretty much everyone
who has researched the human personality. This includes Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget,
who spent much of his career in the early
1900s studying cognitive development. While researching ways to measure children’s
intelligence, Piaget noticed that kids of similar
ages tended to make similar mistakes. And this, to Piaget, suggested that there
were four different stages of cognitive development. First Stage: TOUCH EVERYTHING! Babies learn about the world by grabbing things
and sticking them in their mouths. This curious, slobbery interaction with the world
is what Piaget called the sensorimotor stage – the level of development where all knowledge
is based on what you can perceive with your senses. Around age 2, a child enters the next stage,
known as the preoperational stage. At this point, kids have learned to use language
and begin to ask questions to learn about
the world, rather than just grabbing stuff. Now they can think about the world and
use their imaginations – which leads to playing
pretend and an understanding of symbols. But thinking about the world is pretty much
limited to how THEY think about the world. Kids in the preoperational stage are pretty
ego-centric; if they love playing with trains and you ask them
what their dad’s favorite thing to do is, they’ll probably
say that he loves playing with trains too. It’s not until they reach the concrete operational
stage, around 6 or 7, that they develop the ability to take in other people’s perspectives,
and begin to make cause-and-effect connections
between events in their surroundings. And in the formal operational stage, at about
age 12, Piaget said, kids begin to think in
the abstract and use logic and critical thinking. Now, American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg later
expanded on Piaget’s model of cognitive development
to incorporate stages of moral development. Essentially, kids’ sense of what is “right” begins
in what Kohlberg called the pre-conventional stage, where right is just what feels good
to them personally. Next, they move to the conventional stage,
where what’s right is what society and the
people around them tells them is right. And then finally, children end up in the post-conventional
stage, where they begin to consider more abstract
ethical concepts than just right or wrong. So at a young age, a child doesn’t realize
that grabbing the candy bar they want at the
store is wrong – they just want it. But then, a combination of societal norms
and being scolded by their parents convinces
them that stealing is wrong, no matter how
much they want the candy bar. And over time, they learn that morals have
gray areas; stealing is wrong if it’s just for fun, but
might be considered less wrong if you’re
stealing to feed your family. Eventually, children reach a point where they’re
able to think about things like freedom and justice, and realize that societal norms about
what’s right may not always line up with
these principles. Sure, laws against stealing candy may be just,
but what about laws that say only certain
people can get married? Just because something is a law, is it right? How you feel about that question may depend
on your socialization. And on your gender. Carol Gilligan, an American psychologist who
started out as a research assistant and collaborator of Kohlberg’s, explored how girls and boys
experience these stages differently. She realized that Kohlberg’s original studies
only had male subjects – which may have biased
his findings. When she expanded the research to look at
both male and female children, she found that boys tended to emphasize formal rules to define
right and wrong – what she called a justice
perspective. Whereas girls tended to emphasize the role
of interpersonal reasoning in moral decisions – what she called a care and responsibility
perspective. Gilligan argued that these differences stem
from cultural conditioning that girls receive
to fulfill ideals of femininity. She thought that we socialize girls to be
more nurturing and empathetic, and that influences
their moral interpretation of behavior. The next theory of social development I want
to focus on is from American sociologist George Herbert Mead, who was one of the founders
of the sociological paradigm we talked about a few episodes ago, known as symbolic interactionism. His work focused on how we develop a “self.” What makes up the you that is inherently you? Are you born with some inherent spark of you-ness? According to Mead no! Instead, he believed that we figure out who
we are through other people. All social interactions require you to see
yourself as someone else might see you – something Mead described as “taking on
the role of others.” In the first stage of development, according
to Mead’s model, we learn through imitation – we watch how others behave and try to
behave like them. You see your mom smile at your neighbor, so
you smile too. And Mead observed that as kids got older,
they moved on to a new stage – play. Rather than just imitating your mom, you might
play at being a mom, taking care of a doll. Assuming the role of “mommy” or “daddy”
is a kid imagining the world from their parent’s
perspective. The next stage of development is the game
stage, where children learn to take on multiple
roles in a single situation. What does that have to do with games? Well, games use rules and norms, and require
kids to take on a role themselves, and develop
that role in reaction to the roles that others take on. Team sports are a great example of this. When you’re playing soccer, you need to not only
know what you’re going to do, but also what your
teammates and your opponents will do. If you were ever the kid who ended up running
the wrong way on the soccer field because you didn’t realize the ball had switched
possession, you know how important it is to
anticipate what other people do. The last stage, in Mead’s model, occurs
when we learn how to take on multiple roles
in multiple situations. In this phase, we weigh our self and our
actions not against one specific role, but against
a ‘generalized other’ – basically, a manifestation of all of our
culture’s norms and expectations. Now, you might have noticed that all these
theories focus on childhood. So, does that mean that your personality is
set once you hit 18? No, definitely no. As anyone over 18 will tell you, you keep
growing well past high school. And that’s why yet another theorist, German-born
psychologist Erik Erikson, came up with his own eight-stage theory of development, that
goes all the way from infancy to old age. He based these stages on the key challenge
of each period of life. When you’re a toddler, for example, your
biggest challenge is getting what you want – or as Erikson puts it, gaining autonomy,
which helps you build skills and confidence
in your abilities. But once you’re a young adult, you’ve
got plenty of autonomy. Now a bigger challenge is developing intimate
relationships. Falling in love, finding friends – there’s a reason
that’s the focus of every 20-something sitcom. And his list goes on. Every life stage from when you’re born to when
you die features different expectations that inform
what we see as markers of social development. Moving out, getting married, having kids – they’re
all societal markers of social development as an adult. But whether you feel like one or not, adulthood
will come for us all – and it’s your socialization that will determine
how exactly you perform the role of “adult.” Next week, we’ll talk about the different
agents of socialization that shape who we
really end up being. Today we learned about social development,
starting with the role of nature and nurture
in influencing a person’s development. We talked about social isolation and the importance
of care and human interaction in early years
for proper emotional and mental development. Then, we talked about five theories of development:
Freud’s Id, Ego, and Superego; Piaget’s Four Stages of Cognitive Development, Kohlberg and Gilligan’s theories of moral
development; Mead’s theory of self;
And Erik Erikson’s life stage theory. Crash Course Sociology is filmed in the Dr.
Cheryl C. Kinney Studio in Missoula, MT, and it’s
made with the help of all of these nice people. Our animation team is Thought Cafe and Crash
Course is made with Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’d like to keep Crash Course free for
everyone, forever, you can support the series at Patreon, a crowdfunding platform that allows
you to support the content you love. Thank you to all of our patrons for making
Crash Course possible with their continued
support.

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