Each society teaches its concepts, values, and accepted behaviors to its children. This instruction is largely accomplished by social institutions such as the home, school, and church. Such systematic instruction, together with the examples set by adults or other models tends to make for some degree of uniformity and to establish what may be called the basic personality type of the particular society.
Societies can shape the development of their members in very different ways. The individual’s basic personality structure is affected by the various subgroups to which he belongs—groups based upon his family membership, religion, occupation, social class, age and sex. Each subgroup tends to foster certain patterns which may in turn be subject to the restrictions imposed by society as a whole. The fact that each individual belongs to a somewhat different pattern of subgroups tends to produce individual differences, just as common membership in the larger cultural group makes everyone somewhat alike.
The groups with which an individual identifies, or with which he would like to be identified, are called his reference groups. It is in reference to their norms and values that he sets his goals, models his behavior, and evaluates his worth. Sometimes reference groups from which the individual is excluded have greater influence than membership groups.