Social Groups | Types and Ends of Social groups

Introduction to Social Groups

Man is a social animal, no man can live in isolation. In fact every aspect of man’s life is influenced to a great extent by the members of the different groups of which he/she is a part. Social group is a collection of human beings. 

“A number of units of anything in close proximity to one another.”

“Any collection of human beings who are brought into social relationships with one another”

Social Groups | Types and Ends of Social groups

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Sheriff & Sheriff

“A group is a social unit which consists of a number of individuals who stand in (more or less) definite status and role relationships to one another and which possesses a set of values or norms of its own, regulating the behaviour of individual members at least in matters of consequence to the group”


“A social group is a number of persons two or more, who have some common objects of attention, who are stimulating to each other, who have common loyalty and participate in similar activities.”

Ogburn & Nimkoff

“Whenever two or more individuals come together and influence one another, they may be said to constitute a social group.” Social group involves some degree of reciprocity and mutual awareness between the related individuals. The essence of social group is not physical closeness but a consciousness of joint interaction. Within a social group some of the members lead while others follow.

Characteristics of social group

Reciprocal relationships.
The characteristic of social group is there should be mutual relationships between group
members. On the base of this relationship group works and sustain.
Sympathy towards each other
There should be sense of unity and feeling of sympathy towards each other.
We- feeling
Members of social group defend their interests collectively.
Common interests and ideals.
Another characteristic of social group is member of social group have common interests and
Similar behaviour
For achieving the common goals and interests there will be similar behaviour of group
Group norms
Every group has its own set of rules and norms.

Function of Groups

Defining Boundaries: To identify who are members of a group, some sort of devices must be used to mark the boundaries.

Choosing Leaders: Groups by nature must resolve the issue of leadership and member of groups chose their group. Leader according to Tischler is someone who occupies central role or position of dominance and influence in a group

Making Decisions Setting Goals: The group members set their goals and make decision what to do and what no to or what is achieve and what is wrong and right. All groups must have a goals for example a student in LLB class of  our community has set his goal to become a lawyer. Goals change overtime depending on the challenges faced by the group for example after completing LAW degree there will be new goal now.

Assigning Tasks: Goals, decision making, leadership are all important functions of groups. Significant only when tasks are assigned to each member to perform.

Controlling Members Behaviour: Group member’s behaviour must be controlled for the group to continuously. This is the reason why deviant behaviours of members of the group are considered dangerous and threatening.

What are the types/Classification of Groups?

A person becomes a part of a group, knowingly or unknowingly; for a purpose or as a choice; and for short-term or long-term. Groups can be differentiated into the following nine major categories:

Primary and Secondary Groups

According to Sumner, social groups are divided into two major types:

Primary Group: The group where an individual directly interacts with other members is termed as the primary group. It is responsible for the initial learning and social behaviour of an individual. The groups characterized by intimate face–to-face association and cooperation are primary groups. 

For example, family, friends etc.

Secondary Group: When a person in a group is indirectly associated with or influenced by other members, he/she is said to be in a secondary group. Secondary groups are less intimate, personal and inclusive. It involves indirect interaction. For instance, one’s workplace

Characteristics of Primary Group

Physical Proximity: The members of a groups hare clos relationship and they have intimate contact with each other.

Small in size: Primary groups are small in nature.

Stability in nature: Stability promotes closeness. Closeness.

Continuity in relationship: By meeting frequently and by exchanging thoughts, intimacy increases.

Common commitments among members: Common commitments among members of groups is seen.

Maximum control over group members: Family members control over family affairs.

Characteristics of Secondary Group

Position of a member depends on their role and status.

Individuality develops in the persons because their relations are based on self-interest.

Self-dependence among members.

It is large in size.

No physical closeness.

Formed for some purpose after attaining that it may dismantle.

Group cannot exercise control to that extent due to large size.

Lacks stability and personal relationships.

Has limited acquaintance and responsibility.

Members play active and passive roles.

Possibility of development in individualism.

It is formed with definite objective, its function is not spontaneous.

Formal and Informal Groups

We can categorize the groups into two major classes according to the purpose it serves. Whether it is for fulfilling an organizational objective or for meeting the self interest of the members.

Formal Groups

When people collaborate to attain the organizational goals or objectives, they are said to form a formal group.

Following are the three major types of formal groups existing in an organization:

Command Group: As a result of hierarchical arrangement in an organization, a command group is made of the superiors and their subordinates representing the flow of command or orders from top to bottom level.

Task Group: A group which includes individuals with different skills and knowledge, to successfully carry out the assigned project, is called as a task group.

Committees: For the special assignments or projects, a group is formed by appointing the specialists or people with superior knowledge; which is termed as a committee. After the project responsibilities are executed successfully, the members can disassociate from the committee.

Informal Groups

These are groups that are neither formally created nor controlled by the organization. These groups are natural formations in the work environment that appear in response to the need for social contact. Four employees belonging to four different departments taking their lunch together represent an example of an informal group. Informal groups arise spontaneously and voluntarily to satisfy the various social needs, not likely to be fulfilled by the formal organization. The members of such groups are called informal groups.

The leader of the informal group is selected among the members of the group. Authority in such groups is given to the person and to the position. Communication in informal groups is through informal channels.

The various kinds of formal groups are:

Interest Groups: The individuals who join hands for a common purpose (related to self-interest) create an interest group.

Friendship Groups: The group which is formed as a result of personal choice by the individuals who are already familiar and feel comfortable with one another, is called a friendship group.

Cliques: In a workplace or in class, few colleagues join hands to form a small group (usually with two to six members) to share ideas and thoughts on their mutual interest.

Sub-cliques: When a clique comprises of few organizational employees along with some non-employees (who are associated with the other members in either way), it termed as a sub-clique.

Membership and Reference Groups

We can also distinguish between the different groups by the need for official registration of the members, into the following two categories:

Membership Group

A group in which the members must get themselves registered and acquire a membership card or certificate for becoming a part of it, is termed as a membership group.

Reference Group 

It may not be a real association of individuals, an illusionary group to which an individual relates himself/herself due to the same profession or other similar attributes is called a reference group.

Small and Large Groups

Based on the number of members involved in a group, we can classify it as follows:

Small Group: 

Small groups consist of as little as three to ten members. Such groups are usually well managed and organized.

Large Group

The groups made up of more than ten members are considered to be large groups. These massive groups are challenging to handle and unsystematic at times.

Organized and Unorganized Groups

Given below is the categorization of the groups in terms of its structure and bonding amongthe group members:

Organized Group: 

When the individuals belonging to a particular discipline work together systematically as a team by supporting each other, they are said to be in an organized group.

Unorganized Group

The disorganized group is not formed purposefully. Instead, the individuals just happened to fall into a single group where they neither have any attachment to one another nor have any belongingness.

Open and Closed Groups

Based on the scope for entry and exit of the members in a group, it can be distinguished as follows:

Open Group:

The group where the new individuals can freely enter and old members can exit anytime, is known as an open group.

Closed Group: 

The restricted group where no further entries are entertained, is called as a closed group.

Temporary and Permanent Groups

A group can be formed for a short period or a long duration. Let us now discuss the two categories of groups based on these criteria:

Temporary Group: 

When the individuals come together for a particular project or task accomplishment, they are known to be in a temporary group. Such a group disintegrates after the successful performance of the task.

Permanent Group:

Such groups represent a long-term association of the group members. Here, people belonging to a particular organization are known to be in a single group.

Why do People form and Join Groups?

Groups are formed and joined for a variety of reasons. The most popular reasons for forming and joining a group are related to our needs for safety and security, relatedness or belonging, esteem, power and identity. A brief description of these follows :

Safety and Security Needs Groups provide protection to their members from outside pressures. That is why workers join trade unions to feel safe and secure. Even in the nursery class, when the teacher asks the small kids who broke the toy, he seldom gets an answer. What happens is all the kids keep mum or quiet. Although young, they protected their member by not disclosing any body's name or pointing out at any one in group.

Relatedness or Belongingness Needs : People being social beings, belonging to or relating to groups satisfies a number of their social needs. In every organization, there are many persons who are very isolated or who prefer to be absent from work most of the times. Studies show, such phenomena occur more where people are unable to belong to groups.

Esteem Needs : When one is a member of a group and does some good piece of work, gets a praise from others. This, in turn, brings a sense of recognition to the group member, on the one hand and also a sense of fulfillment of one's need for growth towards higher achievement of work and better career prospects, on the other.

Power : One of the appealing aspects of groups is that they represent power and also offer power to their members. Workers enjoy much greater power by joining groups than they do as individuals. This is because of at least two reasons :

  1. There is strength in numbers and
  2. United we stand, divided we fall.

Identity : As a member of a group, an individual gets identity "Who am I" In practice we understand ourselves through the behaviour of others towards us. 

For example, when others praise us, we feel we are great, if others laugh at us, we see ourselves as funny ones.

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