Anthropology, Department of


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Published in THE NEBRASKA ANTHROPOLOGIST, Volume 2 (1975). Published by the Anthropology Student Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588


The children of a culture represent its greatest asset and responsibility. They insure the survival of a culture if its members can accomplish the formidable task of socialization. Americans are acutely aware of this responsibility. This concern is reflected in the tremendous amount of literature about children. For this reason, I used a familiar type of American literature, the comic strip, for an analysis of socialization in the United States. I chose to study "Dennis the Menace" and Peanuts" because they deal specifically with children from a white, middle class neighborhood.

Socialization, as defined by Hartley and Hartley (In HSU 1972:470), is "learning to be a member of a group." It is difficult to develop a more precise definition, because each society has its own conception of socialization. The nature of the learning process in each society is based on two criteria: the inherent abilities of children and cultural ideas about children (Goodman 1970:12). In order to make each child a useful member of his culture, socialization must foster ideas about cultural values and expectations and a desire to conform to these values and expectations. Socialization in the United States has the following general goals:

1. Teaching roles (Endleman 1967:64-69)

2. Controlling sex drives (Endleman 1967: Ibid.)

3. Fostering a desire for self-reliance (HSU 1972: 483)

4. Developing achievement orientation (HSU 1972: Ibid.)

The above material provides a basis for an understanding of the nature of socialization. These ideas could apply to any culture. I used them in trying to discover what this society teaches children and how these concepts are taught.

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