Outline & Evaluate the importance of the family in the socialisation process 
Socialisation by the family continues for as long as an individual has a family, but is probably most important during the stages of primary socialisation. This starts at birth and continues until a child reaches school age. Up to this point, the family are the main (and in some cases, the only) significant influence on a child’s life.
The family socialise children in a variety of ways. They are responsible for teaching the basic norms and values of everyday life – for example, how and when to eat, move, go to the toilet etc. – as well as providing our first introduction to our society’s culture, through the language used, the traditions passed on and the clothes/toys given. They use positive and negative sanctions (e.g. rewards and punishments) to reinforce socially acceptable behaviour and provide children with their first role models. This can set the scene for all future socialisation, laying the foundations of an individual’s identity.
One of the most important influences the family has is in reinforcing gender roles. Sociologists believe that gender is socially constructed, meaning that there are no biologically determined ways a person should behave, based on their sex. This social construction starts within the family. For example, if a child sees their father going out to work every day and their mother staying at home to cook, clean and look after them, this could impact how the child later considers gender roles in family life.
Anne Oakley believed that parents also socialise children into gender roles through four processes, which she calls manipulation (encouraging behaviour seen as ‘normal’ for the sex), canalisation (channelling children’s interests into gender-specific items and activities), verbal appellations (using gendered language) and different activities (encouraging girls and boys to be involved in different activities to one another). So, for example, a son might be bought toy guns and tool kits, encouraged towards competitive sports and rough play, referred to as ‘brave boy’ and ‘little soldier’ and given more freedom outdoors. His sister may be bought a toy doll and kitchen, encouraged towards taking care of her appearance, called ‘little princess’ and be more restricted to household tasks.
Primary socialisation by the family can also determine other aspects of an individual’s identity. For example, the language spoken at home, the food eaten, the values instilled and the traditions adhered to can create ethnic identity. Some sociologists even argue that social class identities can be created through early family experiences such as mealtime rituals and the amount of time devoted to children by parents.
Overall, the family could be argued to be the most influential agent of socialisation because it is the first influence and therefore the one that sets the scene for everything to follow. However, it can be argued that social changes are threatening the dominance of the family during primary socialisation: Childminders, nurseries and the mass media (via channels like CBeebies) are increasingly becoming key agents of primary socialisation. Some sociologists may also argue that what happens in the family can become undone later in life by other agents of socialisation, particularly peer groups who can replace the role of the family once a child starts school.
Useful video guide on how to answer/structure an 8 mark question:
Outline and evaluate the view that the Mass Media is the most influential agent in creating and reinforcing Masculinities 
(Note: This is an extended essay - a student wouldn't be expected to write quite this much in a 24 mark essay for the exam!)
According to Connell (1995), boys have traditionally been socialised into a hegemonic masculinity. This means that, throughout the socialisation process, boys are encouraged to display behaviour that is sexist, aggressive, ‘macho’, heterosexual and individualistic. The mass media is an increasingly influential agent of socialisation, arguably competing with family, peers and education throughout a person’s childhood and youth – and beyond. So does the media help create and reinforce the norms and values of hegemonic masculinity?
Easthope (1996) believes that it does: He claims that a whole range of media (but especially Hollywood movies) create and reinforce the idea that being a man is about being competitive, violent and strong – and that this should be something boys should naturally strive to believe. We can see this in Hollywood action movies, where the likes of Jason Statham, Vin Diesel, Bruce Willis and Tom Cruise routinely play characters that fit this ideal, whereas men who are more gentle, weak or cowardly are reduced to roles as either villains or comedy sidekicks. Action heroes who are pacifists or homosexual are still few and far between in 2013.
A similar pattern can be found in superhero texts, which are increasingly popular today in movies and video games, as well as comic books. In a study by Marsh & Millard (2003), children could easily identify the ways in which hegemonic gendered activities were embedded in the stories. For example, superheroes are almost always white males who are strong, powerful, violent, heterosexual and individualistic. Superman, Batman, Wolverine, Thor, Iron Man, Captain America and three of the Fantastic Four are just a few of the popular superheroes who fit perfectly into this category (and all of them have recently enjoyed multiple Hollywood adaptations).
In the music world, the hegemonic male could still be argued to rule. Storey (2003) claimed that the likes of Buddy Holly and Elvis Presley represented an aggressive, hegemonic masculinity in their time – and that today, modern musicians are repeating this. Certainly, some of today’s most popular music genres – rap, hip-hop, metal and R&B – are overpopulated by males who boast of violence, power, wealth and (hetero)sexual conquest, for example Eminem, Chris Brown, Lethal Bizzle, Jay-Z.
The norms and values of hegemonic masculinity however, pre-date the mass media. It could be argued that these expectations of boys and men have been present in most human societies for centuries. In this case, the media is in no way responsible or influential in creating hegemonic masculinity – this would be more down to families, peers or workplaces. The mass media certainly appears to reinforce the concept of hegemonic masculinity, however – and given how influential the mass media is in the overall lives of young people, it could certainly be argued that whatever norms and values it reinforces are going to be adopted to some extent.
However, as Connell pointed out, masculinities in the contemporary UK have become much more diverse. If the media really is influential in creating and reinforcing masculinities, then surely it must therefore also reflect a more diverse range.
I would argue that it certainly does do this – and particularly so in more recent times. Many areas of the media rely increasingly less on traditional gender stereotypes. For example, recent, big-budget superhero movies like The Amazing Spiderman and Kick Ass have featured male heroes who are scrawny, shy and awkward whilst some of the most successful recent television programmes such as The Big Bang Theory, Sherlock and Doctor Who feature characters who use brains rather than brawn, are virtually sexless and very rarely (if ever) resort to violence. Additionally, television advertising increasingly reinforces a more complicit masculinity, with commercials for cleaning and household products regularly featuring male rather than female actors.
Perhaps the biggest example of how influential the media can be in relation to masculinities, however, is in the concept of the New Man – a form of masculinity entirely created by the media. Nixon (1996) traces the origin of the concept back to a 1985 television commercial featuring a male model stripping to his underwear. Nixon argues that this encouraged men that it was ‘cool’ to look good and to take care of one’s appearance. What has followed is a huge surge in men’s cosmetic products, related adverts aimed at men and magazines and television programmes all about men’s health, style and fashion. While some sociologists cast doubt over whether or not the new man concept is just an excuse for health/cosmetic companies to target male consumers, the fact that the mass media may have ‘single-handedly’ created a new form of masculinity surely adds weight to the idea that it is the most influential agent of socialisation in relation to masculinity.