A social group is a collection of two or more people who interact frequently and shared a common sense of identity. 

Members of a social group interact, have some sense of belonging, and have norms that guide the behaviour of members of the group.

In our day-to-day interactions, we interact with several social groups.

Examples of social groups are family, peer group, ethnic group, groups of studying partaking in a school project, and, of course, society

It is, however, important to distinguish social groups from two related concepts: social aggregate and category. 

A social aggregate is a quasi-social grouping in which people happen to be at the same place at the same time but otherwise do not interact.

In other words, an aggregate is a group of people who are at the same place and at the same time but lacks social interaction. Examples of aggregate are people in a hospital, football stadium, or rally.

A social category, on the other hand, is a quasi-social grouping in which a group of people shared similar characteristics but does not otherwise interact.

In other words, a category is a group of people who shared at least one attribute but do not interact.

An example of a category is a woman. All women have at least one characteristic: biological sex. But, they do not, as a whole, interact. 

As another example, considered the case of female finance students at the University of Lagos.

This person shared at least two attributes: biological sex and course of study. But, they may not interact as a whole.

A social group is more than a category or aggregate of people and exhibits some form of social cohesion. 

Features of social groups

Major features of social groups include the following.

1. Members of the group interact with one another.

2. Social groups have accepted values and norms concerning matters relating to the group.

3. Members see each other as part of the social group in that each member feels some sense of identification with the group and other members

4. There is a social demarcation between members and non-members. Plus, others see members as a social group.

5. Social groups have sanctions. Members who obeyed norms are positively sanctioned. members who violate norms are negatively sanctioned.

6. Social groups have established status relationships. This means members are actively integrated through role and status relationships in the group structure.

Social groups can be divided into primary and secondary groups. 

Primary group  

This perhaps represents the smallest type of social group. Renowned American sociologist Charles Horton cooley was the first to use the term 'primary group'.

He used the term ''Primary groups'' to refer to a relatively small group that is characterized by strong emotional ties.

Primary groups involve interaction among individuals who have some significant emotional connection with one another, and who know one another intimately.

The primary group plays a significant role in our lives and provides us with our first acquaintance with humanity.

Primary groups are usually marked by a strong sense of concern as members serve as a source of support and encouragement to another. Primary groups are also necessary for a child's primary socialization

Family, peers groups, and individuals in love relationships are some of the better-known examples of primary groups

Features of primary groups 

Major characteristics of primary groups are:

1. There is a high emotional bond among members in that members care a lot about each other.

2. Members of the primary group have a strong sense of belonging and identification.

3. Primary groups are usually small in size.

4. Primary group leaders are usually informal.

5. Relationship lasts long as they are relatively stable.

6. Members are encouraged to be more cooperative rather than competitive

Secondary group

A secondary group is a large group whose relationship is impersonal and goal-oriented. Their relationship may ends after the goal is achieved.

This kind of social group is time-limited in that that they last for a particular time. Membership in this group is usually voluntary.

The sociology class for which you are reading this post is a classic example of a secondary group as might the trade union to which you belong.

Features of secondary groups

Some characteristics of a secondary group are:

1. Relationship is less personal than the primary group

2. Group exists for a particular purpose or goal. In most cases, the group ends immediately after the goal is achieved.

3. This group last lesser than the primary group

4. Weak emotional ties among members

5. Members are encouraged to be more competitive than cooperative

6. Secondary group leadership may be formal.

7. Members are usually unlimited. Perhaps, this explains why secondary groups are less personal.

Before we go further, It is important you note that people can move from secondary group to primary group. 

To illustrate, consider two-course mates. As course mates, they are secondary school. now imagine that these two couples decide to marry each other.

In that case, they become a primary group. So, we see that a second group can move to a primary group.

Related to primary and secondary groups are in-groups and out-groups.

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In-group and out-group

As individuals, you belong to certain social groups and feel loyal to them.

These are in-group. An in-group is a social group in which an individual feels included or has a sense of belonging and loyalty.

A good example of an in-group is a sports team of which you are a member. Other common examples of in-groups are family, peer-group, and political party to which you belong.

Of course, there exist certain groups which you antagonize or don't identify with.

These are out-groups. An out-group is a group with which an individual does not belong and doesn't identify.

Members of the in-group are usually in competition with members of the out-group.

A sports union, a sorority of which you are not a member may just be a perfect example of out-groups.

This distinction between in-group and out-group lead us to our last concept for today: reference group.

A reference group is a group you use for measuring or evaluating your behaviour.

In other words, reference groups are primary or secondary groups that an individual uses as a standard for comparing their behaviour and attitude.

A peer group provides a good example of a reference group.

You have probably dressed the way your peers dressed and behaved the way they do, even against your parent's wishes. The reason is that they are your reference group.

Reference groups can also shape our perceptions. As an example, considered the case of a young man who earned €1000 monthly.

He might consider himself affluent when he compares his monthly income to workers who earned £200. However, the same person might perceive himself as a poor man if he decides to compare his income to workers who earned £70000 monthly.

Thus, we can see that reference groups can serve as a frame of reference to which we refer our achievements.

With that, we wrap up this post on social groups. Can you give an instance of times when your peer group serves as a reference group to you? Tell me your answer in the comment.

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  1. I want to ask that since secondary group can be a primary group in the sense of two course mate getting married to each other,that can primary group change to secondary group.

    1. Yeah, primary groups can change to secondary groups.

      Friends are an example of a primary group.

      For instance, If you and your friends quarrel and have disagreements, but you guys are still coursemates.

      Then, You guys have transitioned from friends (primary group) to being just coursemates (secondary group).

      It should be noted, however, that occurrences of primary groups transitioning to secondary groups are extremely unusual.


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