In fact, the internalisation of roles is almost the same thing as the growth of personality. At each stage of socialisation the child internalises a ‘system’ of roles, not just one role.
Socialisation consists of four stages from infancy to adulthood. They are – (1) the oral stage, (2) the anal stage, (3) the oedipal stage, and (4) adolescence.
1. The First Stage:
The Oral Stage:
This stage begins with the birth of the child and continues upto the completion of one year. Before birth the child in the mother’s womb is in the fetal form and is warm and comfortable. At birth the little infant must breathe, must exert him, to be fed and he must be protected from cold, wet and other discomforts.
For everything the child cries a great deal. By means of crying the child establishes its oral dependency. The child here develops some definite expectations about the feeding time. The child also learns to give signals for his felt needs. In this stage the child is involved in himself and his mother.
For the other members of the family, the child is little more than a ‘possession’. If the father or some other person is providing the proper care for the child, that person, will also be performing the role of ‘mother’.
It is difficult to say whether the child internalises two roles – the role of the mother and his own role – at this stage. Freud called this stage – the stage of “primary identification”. It means the child merges his identity with that of the mother. The child only tries to establish some control over the hunger drive.
2. The Second Stage:
The Anal Stage:
The second stage normally begins soon after the first year and is completed during the third year. It is here that the child learns that he cannot depend entirely on the mother and that he has to take some degree of care for himself.”Toilet training” is the main focus of new concern. The child is taught to do some tasks such as toileting, keeping clothes clean, etc.
The child in this stage internalises two separate roles – his own role and that of his mother. The child receives ‘care’ and also 7ove’from the mother and learns to give love in return. The child is enabled to distinguish between correct and incorrect actions. The correct action is rewarded and the incorrect action is not rewarded but punished.
In this second stage the socialising agent, that is, the mother plays the dual role. She participates in the interaction system with the child in a limited context and she also participates in the larger system that is the family.
The dual role of the mother helps the child to participate in a more complex social system. Thus the mother ‘represents’ the larger social system in relation to the smaller. Further the mother as a socialising agent mediates between the sub-system and the larger system –
3. The Third Stage:
The Oedipal Stage:
This stage mostly starts from the fourth year of the child and extends upto puberty (the age of 12 or 13 years). It is in this stage the child becomes the member of the family as a whole. It is here the child has to identify himself with the social role ascribed to him on the basis of his sex.
According to Freud, the boy develops the ‘Oedipus complex” – the feeling of jealousy towards father and love towards mother. In the same way, the girl develops the “Electra Complex” – the feeling of jealousy towards the mother and love towards the father.
Freud believed that the feelings are mainly sexual. But most of the writers do not subscribe to this opinion. They say that the child of four, five, or six rarely has a clear knowledge of sex or sexual function.
In this stage sufficient social pressures are brought on the child to identify with the right sex. Boys begin to be rewarded, for behaving like boys and girls are rewarded for acting like girls. After the age of six the child is able to understand the sexual difference. The boy tries to identify himself with the father and the girl with the mother.
When the children go to the school or mix with other children they prefer to join their respective playgroups. In this period interest in the opposite sex tends to be suppressed for the boy or girl is busy with learning various skills.
In this stage the boy makes three kinds of identification— (i) He identifies with his father and brothers (sex – role identification) (ii) He identifies with all his siblings (role of child in the family); and (iii) He identifies with the whole family as a member.
Thus, in this stage the child internalises clearly his role – the role of the father, mother and siblings of each sex (brother and sister). It is here he realises that the father has a dominant role in the family, more dominant than that of the mother.
The parents help the children to make proper sex identification. The father helps the son by showing him, how to do things. For example, the Eskimo father shows the boy how to shoot. In Bali Island the father helps the boy to learn the art of dancing.
When once the boy has learned the goal of being like men, he will tend to imitate men especially the father and so is the case with the girl who will tend to imitate the mother.
4. The Fourth Stage:
The Stage of Adolescence:
The fourth stage starts with the period of adolescence. Due to the physiological and the psychological changes that take place within the individual this stage assumes importance. During this stage the boys and girls try to become free from parental control.
At the same time they cannot completely escape from their dependence on their parents. Hence they may experience a kind of strain or conflict in themselves. They want to be free in doing various activities. But the parents continue to control many of their activities. This is particularly true of sexual activity.
In the modern society the parents intend to give more freedom to the boys and girls to do some of their activities independently. The parents try to lessen the open expression of their emotional attachment towards the adolescent children.
They encourage them to select their line of education, their occupation and their life partners. They expect the adolescent children to accept responsibility and learn new roles assigned to them.
The adolescents thus learn new roles and new behaviour patterns and internalise new social norms associated with them. Hence in the modern society the transition from the adolescent stage to the adult stage is more difficult than in the traditional societies. In the traditional societies, all such “life decisions” are mostly made by the parents.