Kd's e-pathsala Educational Sociology Social groups: Concept, Definition, Characteristics, Classification and Role of Education

Social groups: Concept, Definition, Characteristics, Classification and Role of Education

Humans are social beings. No man normally lives alone. In the early days of civilization, people lived alone in forests, caves, river valleys. But from that day they felt that living alone or isolated is not at all convenient. In this case, it is difficult to deal with the attack of animals or natural disasters, from that day people started living together, from that day group society was born and with the flow of life, various changes came in it, groups, institutions and various organizations were born. In people’s lives, this idea first spread from home, playground, school to workplace. The fulfilment of a person’s life comes from these social organizations, these social organizations are generally called “groups”. A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact on the basis of mutual expectations and who share a common identity.


Definition of Social Groups

Many sociologists have defined social groups in different ways, which are mentioned below-

According to Professor T. B. Bottomore, “A social group may be defined as an aggregate of individuals in which- 1. Defined relations exists between the individuals comprising it and, 2. each individual is conscious of the group itself and its symbol”.

Harry M. Johnson says that, “A social group is a system of social interaction”.

Ogburn and Nimkoff, “Whenever two or more individuals come together and influence one another, they may be said to constitute a social group”.

Characteristics of Social Groups

Analyzing the definitions of social groups, some of its features are observed, which may clarify the concept of social group. Characteristics of social groups are-

1. The main characteristic of groups is interrelationships between individuals. The “we-feeling”, refers to the tendency on the part of the members to identify themselves with the groups.
2. Another important characteristic of the social group is “A sense of belongingness”.
3. Social interaction is one of the characteristics of social groups.
4. Participating in social programs and encouraging others to participate.
5. Getting out of self-centeredness and trying to protect the interests of the social groups.
6. Development of the society by building unity among themselves.
7. Social groups are not static but dynamic.
8. Social groups fulfil people’s aspirations.
9. The group transmits consciousness among its members.
10. Social groups are helpful in building a better character of an individual.

Analyzing the above definitions and characteristics it can be said that, two or more people who interact with one another, share similar characteristics, and collectively have a sense of unity, is called a social group.


Significance of social groups

A social group is the holder and bearer of the culture, some rules and regulations are also made for the proper development of the society which was formed at the beginning of civilization. These rules are not written down, they are transmitted orally from one generation to another, which we call Cultural Transmission. Groups play a very important role in the transmission and preservation of this culture. Social groups always provide security to the members within the group, try to protect their interests and fulfill their aspirations. Social groups create unity among all people within the society through interactions and reactions between each member. The group inspires the individual in democratic ideals, builds his character and helps him to become a complete social organism.



Classification of social groups

The classification of social groups is shown in the diagram below-


American Sociologist C. H. Cooley mentions these (primary and secondary social groups) two types of social groups in his book “Social Organization” (1990) on the basis of social relations and mutual proximity. These two groups discuss below-


Primary Groups

This type of group is formed on the basis of mutual understanding and relationship. This type of group is characterized as an organization based on mutual extreme intimacy. Sociologist Cooley, calls the primary group the ‘absolute primary’ because it plays a fundamental role in the formation of human social nature and ideals. Here the “we-feeling” is awakened in mutual solidarity.



Some characteristics of this type of social group are observed. namely-

1. The mutual intimacy between the members of this type of group is very close.

2. This type of group is also called “face to face group”.
3. The size of this type of group is very small.
4. The durability of this type of group is relatively high.
5. Each member of this type of group is equally responsible to each other.
6. Primary groups are not formed based on any type of agreement.

7. In the primary group “we feeling” is observed.


Role of Primary Groups in Education

Primary groups play different roles in education and society are –


1. Primary groups help individuals in the socialization process.

2. Culture transmission is possible through primary groups.

3. Primary groups help in personality development.

4. Primary groups develop cooperative spirit among children.

5. All-round development of students takes place through primary groups.

6. Different social qualities develop. For example: cooperation, sympathy etc.

7. Helps in forming good habits.

8. Helps in language development.

9. The primary group plays a special role in the education of the child.

Secondary Groups

The aforementioned small groups are large groups in different societies and among which there is a sense of unity arising from common group consciousness, but the relationship between individuals is not so sweet and close and there may not be a face-to-face identification between them, they are called secondary groups. According to Professor Davies, secondary groups are completely opposite to primary groups. Here the members are separated from each other. Here the relationship of the members is temporary.

Some characteristics of this type of group are observed. namely-

1. These types of groups are usually formed on the basis of economic status and interests.
2. The relationship between these groups is mostly personal, indirect and external.
3. The size of these groups is larger than the primary groups.
4. The stability of secondary groups is much higher.
5. The relationship develops on the basis of give and take policy.
6. Indirect cooperation is characteristic of secondary groups.
7. The control exercised over subordinate groups to gain member loyalty and to maintain organizational cohesion is statutory, indirect, and impersonal.
8. Secondary groups help develop social qualities in individuals.


Role of Secondary Groups in Education

The special roles played by the secondary groups in education –


1. Secondary groups play a special role in personality formation and adaptation to the development of the individual.

2. Individuals in society are empowered by secondary groups.

3. Secondary groups play a special role in the development of human thought.

4. Various social qualities of man develop through secondary groups.

5. The development of personality is possible because of the combination of different people.

6. There are many secondary groups that develop a sense of national solidarity.


Tertiary Group

In society, there are sudden gatherings of people known as temporary groups or tertiary groups. There is no direct or indirect relationship between the individuals. But the individuals come together for a specific purpose. Once the purpose is fulfilled, the group moves away, it is called Tertiary Group. For example bus or train passengers, crowds during accidents, people travelling in lifts, public gatherings etc.

  • Rao, C.N. Shankar. Sociology : Principles of Sociology With In Introduction to Social Thought. S. Chand Company PVT.LTD, Delhi.