Social Group

Definitions: A social group is defined as:

“When two or more individuals come together and influence one another, they may be called a social group” – William Ogburn

“Social group is a group of two or more persons who are in a state of interaction with one another”.  – Mayer   Nimkoff

Meaning:  A social group is a collectivity of two or more individuals who are in state of interaction with one another. The state of social interaction refers to the reciprocal influence individuals exert on one another through inter-stimulation and response. This state of social interaction or inter-influence is a compulsory characteristic of a social group. A group of boys discussing the last watched movie is a social group because through their verbal interaction, they are influencing one another.

Examples:  A family living in a home, a group of employees working in the same organization, a group of classmates, a group of members of a meeting and so on.


Social groups have the following types:

 On the basis of contact (C.H Cooley)

  1. Primary Group
  2. Secondary Group

 On the basis of Identification (W.G Sumner)

  1. In-group
  2. Out-group

 On the basis of rules and regulation

  1. Formal Group
  2. Informal Group

 On the basis of structure (Dwight Sanderson)

  1. Voluntary Group
  2. Involuntary Group
  3. Delegate Group

 On the basis of relation to society (George Hassen)

  1. Un-social Group
  2. Pseudo-social Group
  3. Anti-social Group
  4. Pro-social Group


On the basis of contact among the member, social groups are divided into two types: 1) Primary and, 2) Secondary Group.

   Primary Group

The concept of Primary Group is given by C.H Cooley. Primary groups have the following characteristics:

  1. There is face-to-face interaction among its members.
  2. There are frequent interactions among its members.
  3. The relations among the members are too personal, intimate and intense.
  4. There is a sense of ‘we-feeling’ in the members of the group..
  5. The members possess similar attributes such as language, interests, culture, religion etc.
  6. There is physical proximity among the members.
  7. These groups are smaller in size.

Examples: Family, Neighborhood, Local brotherhood, Close friends and peers.

Primary groups have great importance in our society. For instance, the family provides food, shelter and care to a child. An individual learns his culture and develops a healthy personality within this primary group to become a productive citizen of society.

   Secondary Group

The concept of Secondary Group is given by Maciver. Secondary groups have the following characteristics:

  1. The group is formed by relations secondary to the primary group.
  2. There is comparatively less face-to-face interaction.
  3. There is comparatively less frequent interaction.
  4.  The relations among the members are impersonal and secondary. These relations are relatively less personal, less intimate and less intense.
  5. The members have specific aims or interest to achieve.
  6. There is less physical proximity among the members.
  7. These groups are larger in size.

Examples: A shopkeeper-customer relation, a doctor-patient relation, an advocate-client relation, an teacher-student relation, a candidate-voter relation. These types of relationship consitute secondary groups.


W.G Sumner has divided social groups into two types: 1) In-group and, 2) Out-group.


A group, to which we directly belong, is called our in-group. It can be our own family, tribe, sex, occupation, games or interest group. For example, if I am player of a cricket team, my cricket-team is an in-group for me. A religious group is an in-group for its followers. A geographical community is an in-group for its residents. The term ‘in-group’ is used when an individual wants to identify himself with a group or show an association with his group, such as by saying: We are Americans. We are English. We are Christians. We are Muslims. We are students. We are doctors. We are musicians.

The members of an in-group have a sense of ‘we-feeling’ and belongingness towards their in-group.


A group, to which we do not belong, is called an out-group. It can be any group of others (not ours) including a family, tribe, ethnicity, sex, occupations or interest groups. For example, If I am a student of Psychology, the students of psychology are in-group for me, but the students of any other discipline (other than psychology) are an out-group for me. The term ‘out-group’ is used to distinguish one’s identity from that of others or to compare one’s identity to that of others, such as by saying: We are Americans (in-group) and they are Indians (out-group). We are Muslims (in-group) and they are Christians (out-group). We are doctors (in-group) and they are engineers (out-group).

There is a sense of ‘they-feeling’ in relation to an out-group.


There are two types of social groups on the basis of rules and regulations: 1) Formal and 2) Informal Group.

   Formal Group

It is a group that has well-defined rules and regulation for joining the group, staying in the group and leaving the group. Those, who fulfill these rules and regulations, can join and engage in the activities of the group. The membership can be cancelled if a member violates these rules. Examples include organizations, banks, hospitals, educational institutions, official associations and firms and so on.

   Informal Group

It is a group which has no prescribed rules and regulations for joining the group, staying in the group and leaving the group. Any person can join the group, participate in it and leave it whenever they want. For example, a group of students sitting in the playground and gossiping with one another. Any student can normally come and join it to share their views. Other examples include: People gathered to see a Joker in a public place, informal clubs and associations.


Sanderson has divided social groups on the basis of structure into three types: Voluntary, Involuntary and Delegate group

   Involuntary Group

It is a group that an individual cannot join or leave by his or her own choice. For example, a family is an involuntary group because an individual has no control over his birth - to be born or not born in a specific family. Similarly, the sex-group is an involuntary group to which we are born without our choice and we have no control on changing our sex-group (e.g. from male to female or vice versa). Age-group is also an involuntary group. We belong to our age group which changes with our growth but it changes in the same way for all other people in our age-group, so we always remain member of that age-group. Moreover, as age changes involuntarily and we have no control on changing our age group.

   Voluntary Group

It is a group that an individual can join or leave by his or her own choice. For example, you can join people watching a game in the playground, you can become a student in a college, you can join an organization and so on. Sometimes, you may require to fulfill certain criteria to join a voluntary group but it is still in your control to fulfill the criteria for joining it. This means membership volutary group is not totally out of the domain a person.

   Delegate Group

It is a group that serves as a representative of the larger number of people. The members are either elected by the people or nominated based on certain criteria. A parliament is a delegate group as it represents the wishes and needs of the public. Similarly, a group of experts, sent to another country to discuss an issue on behalf of their country, is a delegate group.


George Hassen has divided social groups based on its relation to society into the following four types:

   Un-social Group

It is a group that remains detached within a society. They do not participate in the society and remains alone. The examples are introverts, people with adjustment problems or psychological anomalies, drug addicts, criminals, thieves, and murders.

   Anti-social Groups

It is a group that acts against the interest of the society. They may destroy public property and peace. They intend to spread fear and aggression, usually to pursue their aims. Examples include the terrorist groups, criminals, thieves, and murderers. Similarly, a group of labourers on strike against the administration of a factory, students demonstrating protest, people gathered to demonstrate against the government may also sometimes become violent and anti-social groups.

   Pro-Social Group

It is a group of people that works for the betterment of society. They engage in activities for the development, prosperity, and welfare of society. All the governmental and non-governmental welfare organizations are the examples of pro-social groups which work for promoting education, reducing poverty, providing health care, treating drug addicts, helping the underprivileged people and rehabilitating the grieved ones in society.

   Pseudo-Social Group

It is a group that participates in the society only for their own interest and gains. They do not care about the interest of others or the betterment of society. They are concerned only about their own gains and benefits. They behave in a predatory or parasitic way in society.