How Parents Affect on Our Identity

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One’s family has a huge influence on one’s identity, particularly during infancy and childhood. An individual’s family’s values impact their own, forming the basis of their identity. However, when the individual reaches adolescence, they can experience a paradigm shift which can lead the individual to form their own values and identity, shaping the way they conform.

A participant of the questionnaire released for this PIP corroborates this statement by adding: “Family is an extremely important factor in shaping who you are. It is one of the main agents of socialization from the ages of 0-12 and continues to guide you through adolescence and adult years.” This chapter discusses why families are important in establishing one’s identity, and how the way one conforms is based on what kind of family we are raised in. The kind of environment one grows up in is an important factor in developing an individual’s sense of self. The ways in which family members interact with each other and operate as a social group can influences a child’s self-esteem, socialization and cultural identity.

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If an individual is raised in a violent environment with persistent conflict ensuing between family members, this can lead to the cultivation of antisocial behavior, as the child integrates negative behaviors and values he sees within his family into his identity. This warps what the child perceives as socially acceptable, meaning that the child may unintentionally non-conform to social norms out of ignorance. This is reflected in both the questionnaire results, which showed that 100% of the participants concurred that family is an important factor in shaping a person’s identity, and an interview conducted states “Abusive families teach the child that violence is okay, and since the child has no filters in place and are not mature enough to change behaviour, this shapes their identity.” Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy environment when raising a child in order to cultivate correct morals and values in the child, which helps the child to conform in a positive way.

Family is also vital to the formation of one’s identity as an individual’s family are generally the ones with whom one interacts with the most, and the more an individual interacts with someone, the greater chance one has to influence his or her life in a positive or negative way or vice versa. We learn basic morals and values from those who influence us the most. As a result, the people who tend to be the greatest influencers in our lives tend to be those closest to us, our family and friends. This segues into the content analysis conducted, which aimed to examine the roles of family in a totalitarian world.

How family affects society

Orwell displays the role that family plays is to produce children who are controlled and influenced by government organizations, which can then be manipulated to serve “Big Brother” and the government. Family produces “horrible children...that by the means of such organizations as the Spies they were...turned into ungovernable little savages” “All their ferocity was turned outwards, against the enemies of the State, against foreigners, traitors, saboteurs, and thought-criminals.”- Page 29 Orwell places more emphasis on the importance of government initiatives when discussing what factors shape one’s identity. Family is regarded more as a requirement by “The Party”.

  • Conformity
  • Alienation
  • Fear
  • Spying
  • Patriotism
  • Constant surveillance

Psychology teacher Jenna Breuer suggests that family members generally have a strong nurturing influence because they are the first socializing agents that children are exposed to. The influence of family can impact an individual’s choice of friends later in life, however there is a regular part of development where adolescents are more dependent on their friends to make everyday decisions, instead of their family, says social worker Jennifer Polisky. “When there is a lack of strong family influence or relationship with one’s parents, there is a tendency to turn towards friends.” says Max. According to Hoffman, relationships with peers and family can improve over time, however it depends on the strength of these relationships before the chaotic stages. Individuals who are more willing to communicate and appreciate each other’s perspective generally have a greater chance to improve their relationships, while those who aren’t open to communication risk their relationships with peers and family. “I think family and friends often have a positive influence on things,” Crabtree-Nelson states. Therefore family have a huge influence on one’s identity, which affects the way one conforms/non conforms to social norms.

Technology and media as a driving force for social inclusion/exclusion

Technology and the media are important tools in shaping our perspectives on various issues in society. The distribution of ideas portrayed through various advertisements, trends, and stories shown on the news or internet all have a strong influence on how we perceive the world, and to some extent how we conform. Various propaganda can be skewed toward certain groups in society, which can have a profound effect on attitude formation in the masses, leading to conflict and social exclusion of the certain groups targeted. This creates a need for social and cultural literacy when approaching the media. An individual can make a difference in society by forming a group, which can then develop an identity. This is important, as “...a group identity helps to create bonds between individuals through shared morals and goals…”(Emile Durkheim),which gives the group a motivation to grow. By using media to broadcast their ideas to the world, the group can accumulate power and ultimately shift social norms and standards to align with their own. This shifts public opinion and attitude formations in their favor. These people generally have a strong conviction and are non-conformists. There are many examples of these people, one being Adolf Hitler and his fervent desire for a completely Aryan race. Hitler and the Nazis were known for their ability to create extensive and various forms of propaganda, with words and images deliberately used to give life to past anti-Semitic grudges, quell dissent, and turn neighbour against neighbour.

This strategic use of propaganda is also known as ‘agenda setting’, which refers to the media and its ability to manipulate public perceptions of issues by focusing on a small quantity of selective issues and topics. Researchers Maxwell McCombs and Donald Shaw created the Agenda Setting Function Theory (and coined the term ‘agenda setting’) after studying North Carolina voters during the 1968 US presidential election. They found a notable connection between issues that voters thought were important and what was predominantly broadcast in the media. By careful selection of the stories broadcast and the presentation of limited viewpoints, the individual/individuals are able to utilize public opinion to control public policy. A questionnaire response states, “…it depends whether or not the person aligns their values with the media. Sometimes the media tries to get people to jump on certain bandwagons. Some do and others see right through it.” When asked if they think the media influences our perceptions of things. 90% of people agreed that the media influences how an individual perceives various issues in society, with the remaining 10% stating “Media doesn’t necessarily change our viewpoint, more it shows us different viewpoints of an idea”. This indicates that media has the potential to shape our ideas, but the individual can choose whether or not to be influenced by them.

When Hitler became Chancellor, one of his first acts was establishing the Ministry of Public Enlightenment, demonstrating his belief that controlling information was just as important as controlling the military and economy. He appointed Josef Goebbels to direct this department, guided by the adage, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” He dominated virtually every branch of German society, from film, radio, posters and rallies to school textbooks with Nazi propaganda about the dominance of the Aryan people and the menace of the Jews. By doing so, Hitler manipulated public opinion by using propaganda techniques such as name-calling, fear and ‘bandwagon’ (you are either with us or against us). This meant that it was now a social norm to view Jewish people in a negative light, and many people conformed as a result. Horst Krueger admitted that many residents of his town of Eichkamp were critical of Hitler when he first came to power. But he also remembers how even those who weren’t present at the rallies in the large cities were eventually caught up in the spirit they evoked, explaining, “the citizens of Eichkamp were eager to give themselves over to intoxication and rapture. They were weaponless”. This is reflected in content analysis of 1984, which depicts a similar occurrence in Chapter 9, pages 209-210, known as ‘Hate Week’:

Role of Hate Week, how Hate Week affects society

To manipulate people into feeling intense hatred against ‘The Party’s’ enemies, which ultimately diverts the people’s hatred away from ‘The Party’. This enables society to develop a penchant for rioting, as well as a mob mentality, and the government can utilise this for their own benefit. Individuals in 1984 are extensively controlled by ‘The Party’. Hate Week manipulates the way people view certain things by releasing propaganda and false information.

  • Control
  • Fury
  • Patriotism
  • Rebellion
  • Conflict
  • Manipulation

This reveals that extensive use of propaganda by a group identity is powerful in shaping one’s viewpoint on any given topic, as this shapes social norms and values.

Another example is the Parkland Kids, who started a revolution through the use of social media by creating the #NeverAgain movement, which led to ‘March For Our Lives’, a demonstration against the lax gun laws of the US. Values of safety, diversity and change aligned the Parkland Kids, creating a group identity which, through the use of media, has created a powerful campaign to implement more gun control in the US. By doing so, the Kids swayed public opinion and attitude formation in their favour, which enabled them to challenge the lax gun laws in the US and potentially make a difference. The #NeverAgain movement was created primarily to enforce stricter gun laws, and was developed directly after a school shooting had taken place. Media played a crucial role in the development of the ‘March For Our Lives’, as well as the creation of the #NeverAgain movement on Twitter, as media enabled the movement to become viral, thus starting a revolution. The Parkland Kids disallowed use of the term “personal protection” from the gun lobby, while reforming the larger gun debate along generational lines. They effectively utilised media to rally almost a million teenagers to leave class for the National School Walkout to protest for the school-shooting epidemic. Support for stronger gun regulations shot up to 68% after the shooting, up from 60% last November, according to a Politico/Morning Consult survey. Support for the NRA is down to 37%, according to a WSJ/NBC poll, the first time since 2000 that the organisation has been viewed in a negative light.

Companies from Delta Airlines, to Hertz, to MetLife parted ways with the NRA. Florida, known for its previously minimal gun laws, passed a bill on March 9 that bans bump stocks, requires a waiting period, raises the minimum age to buy a weapon and allows police to take guns from mentally disturbed people. 67 NRA- endorsed republicans voted for the bill, and pro-gun GOP Governor Scott signed it. However, none of this means they’ll succeed, and the Parkland Kids are aware of it. They know the GOP Congress is unlikely to pass significant new gun laws. Which begs the question- If the government doesn’t respond to their demands, did their movement make any difference? Since the march, the Parkland Kids have begun a series of initiatives to extend the movement’s continuity. They now oversee a March for Our Lives non-profit, which employs a handful of former students and serves as the group’s operations hub.

The organisation supported “Town Hall For our Lives”, a campaign that encourages students across the country to create events to press local lawmakers for gun reform. By expanding the gun-safety conversation beyond its previous barriers, the March for Our Lives founders are ensuring that the cause doesn’t die with them alone. This reveals that nonconformist groups are vital for initiating social change, as they can draw attention to current inequalities, and imperfections of the government. This also demonstrates that media is a powerful driving force for social inclusion/exclusion, as it shifts people’s perspectives and enables one to challenge previous conceptions on a macro scale.

The influence of socio-economic status and social exclusion on one’s subjective well-being and identity

Socioeconomic status refers to the location, class and status of an individual, and is an important influence on the development of one’s personal and social identity. Socioeconomic status essentially indicates where one ranks on the social ladder, thus determining whether one experiences social inclusion or exclusion. By having a high socio-economic status, one typically has higher levels of education, higher occupational status and higher income than others. The individual is more likely to experience social inclusion than exclusion, and generally has a higher subjective well-being than those of low socioeconomic status. In contrast, persons with a low socioeconomic status experience social exclusion, and this affects their subjective well-being. The impact of conformity on one’s identity, as some people of a low socioeconomic status have values, social behaviours and ideologies that contrast with what others believe to be “socially acceptable”, thus those people would experience social exclusion, which can have a negative impact on one’s identity and subjective well-being, and could drive these people to change themselves in order to receive acceptance from a group.

Location plays an important role in shaping the role and status of an individual, this is predominantly due to the various stereotypes and connotations associated with particular areas, for example, the “working class”. These stereotypes can have a major impact on the development of an individual’s sense of self, and having a steady family setting could help the individual grow up with a stronger sense of self and identity. The characteristics/views one obtains from his environment determine the class and status of an individual, which others classify into a stereotype, thus influencing how others will act toward the individual. Responses from my questionnaire indicated that 80% people believed that socioeconomic status plays a large role in how society treats them, with one response stating, “Classism still exists in society and how others perceive our wealth affects how we change/adapt ourselves to social environments to ‘fit in’. A recent Australian Bureau of Statistics article ‘Who’s Afraid? Feelings of Personal Safety,’ concludes that “adults living in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage experienced more crime, and felt more unsafe compared with adults living in less disadvantaged areas.” Reference/footnote.

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