socialization syllabus.

I’m constructing the syllabus for a new upper-level sociology class next semester, “Socialization and the Life Course.” As far as I can tell, there are two ways that I can structure it.

The first is by institutions – the role of the family, schools, religion, media, work and occupations, etc. – in the “nurture” side of our development through the life course. The other, which sounds really cool to me if I can figure out how to make it happen, would explore socialization from (before) birth to death. The latter is more appealing for a number of reasons, including its ability to highlight sociology’s unique approach to socialization as something that occurs throughout the life course and that this framework might allow for more attention to the interplay of biological and social influences at various points in our lives.

Now that I’ve laid out what I want from the course, here’s what I’m looking for from you… readings (books or articles) or topics that you’d include in a similar class.  In thinking about the course I’ve realized that the relevant readings that I’ve used in other classes are predominantly 1) about gender (e.g. Martin, Thorne, Messner, and Kane) and 2) about childhood (e.g. those previously listed, plus Lareau, Van Ausdale & Feagin, and Adler & Adler).  I’d like a little variety.

Does anyone have ideas about “pre-natal socialization” (for lack of a better term), perhaps about particular parents’ proclivities to read to their child in utero or to play them Bach before they’re born, or the influence of widespread sonograms on parents’ construction of children’s worlds before they’re even born. What about the influence of names? Or perhaps someone has tips for moving beyond gender (and race and class, although I can use more in both those areas) to other roles or groups that we’re socialized into and stages beyond childhood and young-adulthood. Maybe Shamus has ideas for class beyond Lareau or Tina for how people learn to understand their own and others’ sexuality? What can other scatterbrains add about political socialization or trust or the role of neighborhoods? I’d also love insight on some readings that address the link between nature and nurture in ways that are accessible to undergrads. And, finally, what about the end of life. What are some good readings on retirement, old age, and death and dying with a socialization bent?

Alternatively, of course, you could just put your favorite socialization or life course reading in the comments.


9 thoughts on “socialization syllabus.”

  1. Dalton’s work on birth order springs to mind, as does his work on the inheritance of wealth, which I might join with some Bourdieu (or similar) to talk about inherited “capital.” Lieberson’s stuff on naming works just fine–I just taught my Pop Culture class the African American names piece and they liked it just fine. I’d love it if you could get them into some research that links adolescence and peri-menapause to religiousity and the self-help industry. I’ve got someone working on a piece for Contexts–ostensibly a “review” of Eat, Pray, Love that has this character, and I did love the recent New Yorker piece on The Gift or The Secret or whatever. Isn’t sociological, as such, but a nice compliment to something more technical (if you can find it). I expect you’ll want to dip into some of the total institutions work–on prisons or simulated ones; “cults” and other religious orders; etc. And on work, I like Zafirau’s recent piece on Hollywood talent agents–it is focused on being socialized into a work personna (that is gendered, of course). (N.B. It isn’t process-oriented, so much)
    There’s my mid-afternoon brain dump. Sorry for misspellings, idiotic remarks and such.


    1. Thanks for a lot of great leads, Jenn.

      I incorporate various forms of capital and use Conley in my inequality classes. I hadn’t thought about using either here, but it’s a good idea. I skimmed the birth order book a while back, so I’ll have to revisit that one. I had considered Lieberson’s name research, but wondered if there was something more out there that might be relevant.

      The other tips are entirely new and sound exciting. I appreciate the input!


  2. I think Betsy Armstrong’s book, Conceiving Risk, could be a neat pre-natal socialization book (about the social construction of fetal alcohol syndrome).


    1. Thanks so much for this. In looking at her CV, there are lots of great options to consider. I also might email to see if she has anything from her research (and talks) on fetal imaging technology.


    2. Great idea foodgirl! Betsy’s book is not only wonderful but also accessible to undergrads. I use it in my Medical Sociology course and the students REALLY get into it. Pair it with some extreme ‘don’t drink while pregnant’ poster images to really provoke a great discussion (I think I found some on SocImages but also just using google images).


  3. Regarding foodgirl’s suggestion: Betsy has a new book project on fetal images and how we see the relationship between the pregnant woman and the fetus. She might have something from that project that she’d be ready to share.

    Linda George writes tons about the life course, and some of her new work is on aging and spirituality. I’m not familiar enough with her work to know what would be most appropriate for undergrads.

    Jennifer Lundquist has a great Social Forces article (2004) on the black-white marriage gap and the military. This particular article might be a bit further afield than what you had in mind (plus it might be too hard for undergrads), but I think it makes sense to include something on the military.

    A few other suggestions:
    – Bruce Western’s article on the centrality of incarceration to the life course of young black men.
    – an excerpt from Kathy Newman’s book on older people aging in the city. I’m not sure which of her books it is from, but it is included in the Cherlin Public and Private Families reader under the title, “Men and Women: Together and Apart in Later Years.”


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