The heart of socialization is the development of the self. But what is meant by self? According to Cooley- “By self is meant that which is designated in common speech by ‘I’, ‘me’ and ‘myself; Cooley’s definition of self is simple enough but it does not refer to any clear cut entity such as one’s body.

Therefore, Gardner Murphy says that the self is the individual as known to be individual. The self of a person is what he consciously or unconsciously conceives himself to be. It is thus “self-concept” the sum total of his perceptions of himself, and especially his attitudes towards himself.

When a child is born, he, has no self, i.e. he has no consciousness, of itself or of others. He does not possess those behavior mechanisms, which make individual a part and a member of any group. He has no conception of where the social customs begins and ends. In short, the child at birth is not conscious of any of the self and other relationships. This relationship the child learns through the process of socialization. It is the fulfillment of his potentialities for personal growth and development. It humanizes the geological organism and transforms it into a self-having a sense of identity and endowed with ideals, values and ambitions. Self is a social product and socialization is the indispensable condition for individuality and awareness.

There are three important theories to explain the development of self. These theories have been propounded by Cooley, Mead and of Freud. A brief description of these theories is given below.


1. Cooley’s Theory:

Cooley’s concept of self-development has been termed “looking-glass” concept. According to him, man develops the concept of self with the help of others. Man does not come to form opinions about him unless and until he comes into contact with other people and knows their opinions about himself. He forms to the concept of himself on the basis of opinions held by others about him.

Thus, when our associates call us intelligent or average, tall or short, fat or thin we react to the opinion and form the same opinion about ourselves as they have formed. In other words, just as the picture in the mirror gives an image of the physical self so the perception of others gives an image of the social self. The knowledge about ourselves comes to us from the reaction, of other persons. These other persons comprise of our social looking glass through which we form the image of ourselves.

There are three principal elements of the looking-glass concept:


(1) Our perception of how we look to others.

(2) Our perception of the judgment of how we look and

(3) Our feelings about the judgments.

Take an example: suppose that whenever you enter a room and approach a small group of people conversing together the members promptly leave the room with lame excuse, has taken place several times. Would it not affect your feelings about yourself? Or if whenever you appear, a group quickly forms around you how would this attention affect yourself feelings?


Thus, we discover ourselves through the reactions of others about us. This self-knowledge is first gained from parents and is modified later by the reactions of other individuals. It may similar or we may misjudge their reactions. An ego-boosting remark may be a mere flattery. Thus, the looking glass self, which the individual perceives, may differ from the image others have actually formed. There is often a significant variation between the individual’s perception of how others picture him and the views they actually hold.

2. Mead’s Theory:

G.H. Mead has given a sociological analysis of the process of socialization. According to him, the self develops out of the child’s communicative contract with others. The newborn infant has need like those for food and clothing that press for satisfaction. The mother satisfies these needs and the child comes to depend upon her and identifies himself with her emotionally.

However, in course of time, the child differentiates himself from his mother and then he has to integrate himself and mother into a taking of subordinate role to the superior role of the mother. Then the child repeats for his father. He differentiates his father from his mother and then integrates him into the social system. In this way the number of significant others increases for the child and the child internalizes the role of these others. He puts himself in the role of the others, then responds to his own words, and acts in terms of the meaning they would convey to the other person.


In this way, the self develops and grows. An essential characteristic of the self is its reflexive character. By this method, George H. Mead means that the self can be both subject and object to itself. It can reflect upon itself or in other words, it can be self-conscious. Man can do so only through assuming the role of other persons and looking at himself through their eye. He learns to imagine how he appears to others and how do they judge this appearance. Then he reacts himself to this judgment as he imagines it. Thus by adopting towards himself the attitude that others take towards him, he comes to treat himself as an object as well as subject.

However, acquiring the attitudes of others towards himself is not sufficient for the individual. He explores and finds out others attitudes towards him. This is very necessary for him, otherwise he cannot predict or control what happens to him. The child learns at an early age the one of the most important ways of controlling his destiny is to influence the feelings of others towards himself.

The attitudes can be known only through the mechanism of symbolic communication. He must learn to utilize the symbols by which attitudes of others in his own imagination and in turn communicate his own reaction to others in the light of what he imagines to be their attitudes.

Once he has acquired the attitude of others as part of himself he can judge how another person will respond by how he himself responds to the words he utters. The individual thus speaks to himself. What he says or thinks calls out a certain reply in himself. He takes the role of others. No sharp line can be drawn between our own selves and the selves of others, since our own selves function in our experience only is so far as the selves of other function in our experience also. The self is not something that exists first and then enters into relationship with others. It is something, constantly adjusting as new situations and conflicts arise. It assumes the prior existence of a social order and yet is the vessel in which and through which the order continues.


3. Freud’s Theory:

The theories of Cooley and Mead presume a basic harmony between the self and society. According to Cooley, society and individuals are not separate phenomena but are simply collective and distributive aspects of the same thing.

Sigmund Freud the father of psychoanalysis does not agree with this concept of self and society. According to him, self and society are not identical. He has explained the process of socialization in terms of his concepts of ‘Id’, ‘Ego’, and ‘Super ego’, which constitute the three systems of mind. The ‘id’ is the organ of untamed passions and represents instinctive desires. The ‘ego’ acts with reason while the ‘super ego’ acts with ideals and norms.

There, is found a conflict between ‘id’ and ‘ego1. This ‘id’ is usually repressed, but at time, it breaks through in open defiance of the super ego. Sometimes it finds expression in disguised forms e.g. when father relieves aggression by beating the child. The ego in such a case is not the horse and the ego with its rider. He says, “The function of the ego is that of the rider guiding the horse which is the Id. But like the rider the ego sometimes is unable to guide the horse as it wishes and perforce must guide the ‘id’ in the direction it is determined to go or in a slightly different direction”. It is out of the conflict between the ego and the psychos are developed.