The major agents of socialization are the family, the school, peer groups and media. Socialization is a process that starts at birth and continues through the lifespan. Each person learns values, beliefs and social norms through socialization. This process also influences a person's identity and role within society.
The family is the primary agent of socialization for the first five years of life. Children learn how to behave and are first introduced to society through the family. The family has a profound impact on the socialization process because children learn through the examples of parents. For example, boys and girls learn what it means to be men and women by watching their mothers and fathers interact.
When children begin school, they learn how to behave in society. During this time, children also learn their own functions within society and how social order works. Later in life, other institutions, such as the government and workplace, influence the socialization process.
Peer groups influence the way children interact in social settings. Often, the first peer group a child is introduced to is in the classroom. As children age, peer groups can have a major impact on behavior, influencing everything from style of clothing to lifestyle choices.
Media is a relatively new agent of socialization. Media influences the way children think by reflecting social norms. Media also has a generally negative affect on children and adults because images are often constructed. Developing a negative body image is a common result of media socialization.