Primary groups are characterized by intimate face-to-face association and cooperation. The chief primary groups are the family, the playmates, and the neighborhood friends. To these groups may be added the school, the church, and other small social units. One knows personally all those in the primary groups of which he is a part. He meets directly all their conditioning influences.
In the family the child first learns ways of thinking, acting, and relating oneself to others. Parents use various ways to teach these things. The child learns largely in two ways. He realizes that he is either rewarded or punished by his parents or his older brothers and sisters, depending upon whether he does or does not comply with their wishes. He imitates the people around him particularly if their behavior seems to gain the approval of others. Through imitation he learns many things his family does.
Our religious, moral, and political ideas are for the most part those of our parents. The Christian brought up in the Christian home sees the world with the mores or standards of good conduct of the Christian. So, too, would the Muslim brought up in the Muslim home, or the pagan brought up in the pagan home.
We learn that in our culture we have to act in a certain way. The roles we play are either of two kinds: assigned or acquired. Assigned roles are those we have no control over. We find ourselves already assigned to play the role of boy or girl, the role of member of a particular family, and of a certain nationality or race.
In acquired roles we have a choice. A child of three, for example, must be told by his mother or someone else that he must not take things that do not belong to him without the owner's permission. When he is old enough, he tells himself that he must not take anything from another person's desk or locker. No other person needs to tell this to him if he has learned the rule well as a young child. A child is not born honest, but he can be taught to be honest. If he were dishonest, his conscience as well as society would punish him.
The child who steals was not born dishonest. Either he did not learn the rule well or, for certain reasons, he did not obey the rule he knew. Perhaps he grew up among people who did not value honesty. He might have been told by his parents that honesty is the best policy" but the same parents would boast to the child of shady business deals or of shoplifting at the store when no one was looking. The child learns the behavior of the people around him.
Other acquired roles or behavior traits are illustrated in one's recreational preferences or in one's habits. You may refer basketball to other sports because your own father was a popular player in that particular game. You may even say, "I'm proud I've chosen basketball for it outshines all other sports." Likewise, you may say "I do not smoke because it wasn't practiced in our home."
This process of learning how to behave according to socially accepted is called socialization
From the homes and family, socialization moves on the circle of one's playmates in the neighborhood, and then the school and the larger community. The interests of one's play group determines his recreation habits. If the gang plays "patintero," he plays it also. If the group goes for playing "school" or "housekeeping," one does, too.
Since families in a neighborhood tend to be similar due to economic circumstances and occupations, the neighborhood children with whom one plays probably come from families with similar standards to those he has learned at home. His association with them strengthens his conviction that his ways is right. The play group gives lessons of great worth in fair play, loyalty and other basic virtues.
When the child goes to school, the patterns of thought and behavior developed in him are largely those of the teachers and classmates he admires most. The attention, approval, and affection of other people become as nearly important to him as the satisfaction of his physical needs.
As the child grows in age and experience, his contacts grow and include other groups within the community such as the church and certain clubs and teams. The habits, attitudes, interests, aspirations, customs traditions and mores of the primary groups make the child conform to the accepted social behavior of his community.
If the child comes upon a minority group that does not believe and act as he does it may not affect him very much. While the group may have different standards of behavior, his own concept of what is right as learned from his own family and friends will help him act properly and with confidence.
It is only when the child finds himself in the minority that he finds that some of the things he has learned make life difficult for him. Take the girl in the province, for example, whose manner of speaking is so different that it is criticized by her teacher and made fun of by her classmates. Her speech patterns may have been affected by the speech characteristics of her own region of origin. It may take this girl some time to speak like the others.
The boys who has learned from his parents that "good little boys don't fight" may become miserable on the playground until he learns to give and take in a little boy's world of the school ground, or the neighbor's backyard. But by and large, if he has learned well the rules taught at home, he will still feel that his way is right and abide strongly by those rules.