Describe social groups in general. Then compare and contrast three different types of social groups. 

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Social groups are a basic element of human life.  Social scientists generally define social groups as any group of two or more people that A) interact with one another regularly and B) all feel some sort of sense of unity or common identity.  There are typically said to be three different kinds of groups.  These are primary groups, secondary groups, and reference groups.

What these groups all have in common is already stated in the definition of a social group.  All of them have to include at least two people.  All of them have to involve people who interact with one another regularly.  This means that I cannot say that I am a member of a group called “multiracial people” because I do not interact with all of the other multiracial people in the US on a regular basis.  In addition, the members of the group have to feel that they have a common identity.  This means that I probably cannot say that I am a member of a group called “people wearing shorts today” because all the people wearing shorts probably don’t see themselves as having much of a common identity.

What these groups do not have in common is their degree of importance to the average individual.  A primary group is a close-knit group whose members really mean a lot to one another.  The obvious example of this is a family.  By contrast, a secondary group generally means much less to us.  A secondary group for my daughter might be her volleyball team.  They do not mean nearly as much to her (unless some of them are her close friends, but close friends are a primary group) as her family does.  Reference groups are also not necessarily intimate groups.  Instead, these are people to whom we compare ourselves.  I might, for example, compare myself to other parents of my younger daughter’s gymnastics team.  I might use those people as a reference that helps me to understand how I should behave in given situations.  

jprice1980 | Student

Well, when we think of social groups they can be categorized several ways.  It is very common for them to broken down by social, status, economic position and many other factors.