Groups make up society. The foundation of society is a group of people. The sheer presence of people in a physical space, however, does not constitute a social group. When two or more people are in direct or indirect contact and communication, they form a social group. The group members stimulate and respond to each other in some meaningful way. Social contact is the mutual stimulation and response of individuals and groups. The foundation of society is social contact. It depicts people’s and groups’ conditioned behaviour. The products of social contact are both society and culture. All other social phenomena spring from social contact, which is the most fundamental social phenomenon. A social relationship exists when an interaction occurs frequently enough for us to see a pattern of behaviour. Friendly or hostile social contacts can be intimate or non-intimate, inclusive or non-inclusive, specialised or non-specialized in nature. Different types of social groups, such as primary and secondary groups, in-groups and out-groups, organised and unorganised groups, formal and informal groups or organisations, and so on, are based on the nature and character of social connections.

Characteristics of Social Groups

The main characteristics of social groups are as follows:

  • Collection of Individuals: Social groups are made up of individuals. There can be no group without people. We can’t have a group without people, just as we can’t have a college or university without students and teachers.
  • (ii) Interaction among members: The basic foundation of group life is social interaction. As a result, a collection of individuals does not constitute a group. Interaction between the members is required. In reality, a social group is a system of social interaction. The limits of social interaction define the boundaries of social groups.
  • Mutual Awareness: Mutual awareness is an important aspect of group functioning. Members of a group are aware of one another, and their actions are influenced by this mutual awareness. This could be due to what Giddings refers to as “kind consciousness.”
  • We-feeling: The inclination of people to identify themselves with groupings is referred to as we-feeling. It symbolises group cohesion. It develops cooperation and fosters sympathy among members. It enables group members to collectively protect their interests.
  • Group Unity and Solidarity: A sense of belonging binds the members of a group. The frequency, variety, and emotional quality of a group’s contacts are all important factors in determining its solidarity or integration.
  • Common Interests: The common interests and ideals are similar. The majority of groups are founded or organised to pursue certain goals. The shape of the groupings varies based on the group’s mutual interests. As a result, there are political, religious, economic, national, and other types of groupings.
  • Similar Behaviour: For the sake of pursuing common interests, group members operate in a more or less identical manner.
  • Group Norms: Each group has its own set of standards or norms that members are expected to adhere to. Customs, folkways, mores, traditions, conventions, and laws are examples of norms.
  • Group Size: Every group is defined by its size. The size of social groups varies. The group’s character will be influenced by its size.
  • Groups are Dynamic: Social groups are dynamic rather than static. They are subject to both slow and rapid changes. New members are born and old members die. Groups alter as a result of internal or external pressures or factors.

Cooley’s Classification of Social Groups

Primary and secondary social contact groups have been defined based on the nature and quality of social interaction. C. H. Cooley’s name is closely connected with this classification, despite the fact that he did not create it. In his work “Social Organization,” Cooley coined the phrase “primary group” and said nothing about “secondary group.” Other than major and secondary groups, he considers secondary groupings to be a “residual” category. It means that it is contingent on the sort of social contact and the level of intimacy among the individuals involved. Primary groups are also referred to as “face-to-face” groups, whereas secondary groups are referred to as “derivative groups.”

The phrase “primary groups” was coined by Cooley to describe a social group characterised by “face-to-face” relationships, mutual aid, and camaraderie. The ‘We’ groupings might be referred to as the primary groups. A core group, according to Cooley, entails the kind of affection and mutual identification that ‘We’ is the natural expression for.

Cooley writes – “By primary groups I means those characterized by intimate face-to-face association and co-operation. They are primary in several senses, but chiefly in that they are fundamental in forming the social nature and ideals of the individual….”

The Primary Groups

C. H. Cooley made a significant contribution to social philosophy with his concept of primary groupings. Primary groupings can be found in every society. The nucleus of all social organisations is the primary group. It’s a tiny group in which just a few people interact directly with one another. These individuals gather in person for mutual assistance, camaraderie, and discussion of common issues.

Primary groups are universal social structures that exist at all stages of cultural development. They serve as the foundation for what is universal in human nature and ideals. The basic group relations shape and develop the ‘self.’ Individuals are socialised by primary groups. They are, as Maclver puts it, “the nurse of our loyalties” and “the breeding ground of our mores.” The bulk of relationships occur in primary groupings in primitive civilization, and even in advanced cultures prior to the establishment of cities.

Family, neighbourhood, children’s playground, local brotherhood, friend’s club, peer group, and so on are examples of fundamental groups.

Primary groups are extremely important to both individuals and society. They are the means by which we learn about our culture. They teach people how to have a successful social life. Individuals are socialised and their personalities are shaped properly. Some of the key groups may gain external benefits such as higher earnings, more productivity, improved worker morale, counselling and advice, and so on.

The Secondary Groups

Secondary groups are almost diametrically opposed to primary groups. Secondary groups are social groups that are different from primary groups. They’re a leftover category. Special interest groups are a common term for them. However, as a society’s population and area grow, people’s interests diversify, necessitating secondary or impersonal ties. Interests become more distinct. Expert assistance is necessary. Techniques are elaborated, but the typical member lacks the time, energy, or skill to participate. The new range of interests necessitates a sophisticated structure.

The Reference Groups

Muzafer Sherif’s text book “An Outline of Social Psycology” – 1948 was the first to use the term reference group in the literature on small groups. In contrast to the phrase membership group, he used this term. A person’s membership group is one to which he belongs, whereas his reference group is one that influences his behaviour.

“Reference groups,” according to Ogburn and Nimkoff, are “groups that serve as points of comparison.” They went on to say that reference groups are the people from whom we obtain our ideals or seek acceptance.

The concept of reference groups stems from the reality that every person acting in any scenario might be impacted not only by his membership groups, but also by his perceptions of other groups that he is not a member of. These other groups have a passive or quiet influence as reference groups, i.e., just by being thought of. They do not totally exist as reference groups, but they are referred to as such only in terms of their ability to exert influence.


Groups are societal units, and every human being belongs to one or more of them. It is consequently vital to analyse the behaviour of the many groups that make up a society in order to comprehend it. Their actions are a reflection of the social system in which they live. The type of group they belong to will be determined by their degree of closeness and the regularity with which they engage with one another. The foundation of society and culture is the social group. A social group is a group of people who interact with one another and have common traits and a sense of belonging.

They are important in our lives because social groupings can give significance to a person’s life; associating with like-minded people can provide support and acceptance; and a general sense of belonging. As a result, a discussion of group worker duties is necessary. A family is often made up of people who live together and interact with one another on a daily basis. Individual work cannot give a variety of benefits that group work may, such as the synergy among members that group work provides over case work, which is why it is used in the social work environment.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

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We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

We are also running a series Inspirational Women from January 2021 to March 31,2021, featuring around 1000 stories about Indian Women, who changed the world. #choosetochallenge

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