Socialization in Humans: Making Friends

6 Jun

Rarely are things in this world black and white. This is also true for nature versus nurture (and most other debates of this type). So before I make my case, we are all born predisposed to certain things. Nurture can only act on what nature gives us, so to some degree socialization can only matter so much. The reason I bring this up is because I think I was fairly well socialized as a child, but I’m still an introvert and I still have trouble doing certain things adequately.

In animals (lets speak non-human animals first) we know that socialization can be crucial. With dogs, we socialize them with other dogs, people, and in an ideal world, other species of animals as well. This is all in hopes that they will not fear these things, and will know how to react when they come into contact with them. A poorly socialized dog may find it harder to understand its doggie friends social cues, or may be fearful or aggressive toward them. This is the same with people. If a dog hasn’t been socialized with people, it may bark, bare its teeth, or just be fearful. Novel situations do the same thing. That is why it is so important to introduce puppies to these things. This is all nurture, but the internal nature of the dog still is being acted on; some dogs are socially motivated, so they may love to play with people or other dogs, but others may be internally motivated, so they are more introverted and prefer to do things at their own pace.

Depending on the situation of an animal, we might want to limit its socialization also. This is true of wildlife rehabilitation animals. We don’t want them to think humans are good (because that can endanger them later on, and people as well), so we don’t interact with them the same way we do a dog. If its a baby, however, it does still need to know what it is, and how to react to its peers, so its best to try to introduce it to others of its kind.

This brings me to humans. We, too, have different levels of motivation – its kind of like the introvert versus the extrovert, so how we deal with situations is naturally variable from person to person. Socialization is important for us also, though. Socialization is a major perk of having siblings, and of being taught at a public or private institution. This is not to say that being an only child or being home schooled are bad things, but that parents must take extra measures to ensure their child still has the ability to react to social cues, as well as give them. We may not realize it, but baby/toddler play dates are just as important as puppy play dates. Children learn how to share, what it means to get hurt or hurt someone, and all the positive and negative connotations of such.

This can help them make friends easier later on, and friends are important.

Also, socializing a child with animals or introducing them to new adults can be life-altering as well. If you show a child all different kinds of animals – snakes, mice, rabbits, dogs, cats, birds, etc. – then the likelihood that they will fear those animals decreases. It also gives you a great way to teach your child about its surrounding environment, and the proper way to handle animals like these. Having your child interact with strangers can help them learn that not all people are scary, but can help you teach them valuable lessons such as “don’t get into a car with someone you don’t know”. This could be as simple as introducing your child to the cashier at the store, or asking for what they want at a restaurant.

Being socially awkward myself, I know that I could’ve been more socialized as a child. My sister was 8 years older than me, so I was almost like an only child (yes, growing up I had sharing issues). I also see the effects in my peers who might manifest things such as social anxiety or a decreased ability to react properly to social stimuli.

Do you think socialization in humans is important? What was your situation as a child? Do you have children of your own?

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