Outline and assess the role of the family in socialising children into ethnic identities 
The family is the main agent of primary socialisation, meaning it is the most influential institution on young children from birth to when they start school. Its influence continues beyond this, but in combination with a wider range of agents (e.g. peer group, media).
A person’s ethnic identity relates to the groups and characteristics with which that person identifies. Modood describes ethnicity as being constructed from a range of factors, including ancestry, traditions, race, language and beliefs. The family has a crucial role in creating and reinforcing ethnic identities.
The family name can influence ethnic identities as it gives a person a clue to their ancestry. Family structure can also be an influence, as some ethnic groups are more likely to live in particular family structures than others (e.g. Black-Caribbean children are more likely to be raised in a lone-parent household). Simple things that happen within a household can also create and reinforce ethnic identities, for example the food eaten at mealtimes, the language spoken at home and the clothes and toys given to children. If a person lives in Britain yet does not speak English at home and wears clothes and eats food that are not traditionally British, this might create/reinforce an ethnic identity that is not wholly British.
The values passed on to children by parents can also be different within different ethnic groups. For example, a study by Francis & Archer found that British-Chinese families place a particular value on educational success and go to great lengths to ensure children achieve this. A study by Ghuman also showed how first-generation Asian parents in Britain socialised their children according to traditional Asian values rather than British ones (for example, parents choosing marriage partners and education and children taught to be bilingual, religious and obedient). Ghuman’s study showed that subsequent generations of Asians in Britain started to adopt more British values.
In a multicultural society like Britain, we do find that – outside of the family – children are exposed to an extremely wide range of influences from a wide range of cultures. This means that even when children are socialised into ethnic identities within the family, these identities can change as the person grows up, leading to hybrid identities (mixing of cultural influences). Johal & Baines identified that many young people have dual identities – using one ethnic identity when with their families and another when in other situations (e.g. with friends). Switching between these identities is referred to as code switching.
In conclusion, the family is extremely influential in shaping the ethnic identities of young people. However, in multicultural Britain, these identities are not necessarily fixed and the influence of other agents during secondary socialisation can result in ethnicities evolving, merging, switching or even being abandoned entirely in favour of another.
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