He believed that personality and sexual development were closely linked, and he divided the maturation process into psychosexual stages: oral, anal, phallic, latency, and genital.He posited that people’s self development is closely linked to early stages of development, like breastfeeding, toilet training, and sexual awareness (Freud 1905).(Photo courtesy of Seattle Municipal Archives/flickr) In the summer of 2005, police detective Mark Holste followed an investigator from the Department of Children and Families to a home in Plant City, Florida. Without regular interaction—the holding, hugging, talking, the explanations and demonstrations given to most young children—she had not learned to walk or to speak, to eat or to interact, to play or even to understand the world around her.
You might be wondering: if sociologists and psychologists are both interested in people and their behaviour, how are these two disciplines different?
What do they agree on, and where do their ideas diverge?
Many scholars, both in the fields of psychology and in sociology, have described the process of self development as a precursor to understanding how that “self” becomes socialized.
Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (1856–1939) was one of the most influential modern scientists to put forth a theory about how people develop a sense of self.
They studied monkeys raised under two types of “substitute” mothering circumstances: a mesh and wire sculpture, or a soft terrycloth “mother.” The monkeys systematically preferred the company of a soft, terrycloth substitute mother (closely resembling a rhesus monkey) that was unable to feed them, to a mesh and wire mother that provided sustenance via a feeding tube.
This demonstrated that while food was important, social comfort was of greater value (Harlow and Harlow 1962; Harlow 1971).She had no understanding of the concept of “family,” didn’t know cultural expectations for using a bathroom for elimination, and had no sense of modesty.Most importantly, she hadn’t learned to use the symbols that make up language—through which we learn about who we are, how we fit with other people, and the natural and social worlds in which we live.Detective Holste headed down a hallway and entered a small room. You may be surprised to know that even physical tasks like sitting, standing, and walking had not automatically developed for Danielle as she grew.That’s where he found the little girl, with big, vacant eyes, staring into the darkness. And without socialization, Danielle hadn’t learned about the material culture of her society (the tangible objects a culture uses): for example, she couldn’t hold a spoon, bounce a ball, or use a chair for sitting.We will explore how socialization is not only critical to children as they develop, but how it is a lifelong process through which we become prepared for new social environments and expectations in every stage of our lives.But first, we will turn to scholarship about self development, the process of coming to recognize a sense of self, a “self” that is then able to be socialized.The answers are complicated, but the distinction is important to scholars in both fields.As a general difference, we might say that while both disciplines are interested in human behaviour, psychologists are focused on how the mind influences that behaviour, while sociologists study the role of society in shaping both behaviour and the mind.A newspaper report later described the detective’s first encounter with the child: “She lay on a torn, moldy mattress on the floor. She also hadn’t learned its nonmaterial culture, such as its beliefs, values, and norms. Through extensive testing, doctors determined that, although she was severely malnourished, Danielle was able to see, hear, and vocalize normally.