What are the types of intergroup relationships in sociology?

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The term intergroup relationship describes the relations, or interactions, between two or more groups of people. In sociology, the focus is often on the intergroup relations between two different racial groups, ethnic groups, or social groups. Some relationships could be described as tolerant, while others are clear examples of intolerance.

The types of intergroup relationships in sociology include:

  • Assimilation
  • Pluralism
  • Amalgamation
  • Segregation
  • Expulsion
  • Genocide

Assimilation occurs when one group discards its identity and adopts the values, beliefs, language, or culture of another group as a way to fit in. In many cases, it is a minority group that assimilates to the majority group, but assimilation can be a two-way process.

Pluralism occurs when each group retains its identity while peacefully and respectfully existing with the other group. For pluralism to exist, the minority or subordinate group must be accepted by the majority or dominant group and fully participate in the majority or dominant society.

Amalgamation occurs when two different groups combine to form a single group with shared values, beliefs, cultures, languages, and so on. This is sometimes, but not always, achieved through marriage or breeding between people from two different groups.

Segregation occurs when one group, typically the dominant group, creates a physical separation between themselves and another group. This may involve designated areas or behaviors for each particular group, to ensure that there is limited or no intermingling.

Expulsion occurs when one group, typically the dominant group, forces another group to leave a community, region, or country.

Genocide occurs when one group, typically the dominant group, tries to deliberately destroy another group. It is undoubtedly the most toxic, intolerant intergroup relationship.

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According to sociologists, there are two main patterns of intergroup relations.  These are assimilation and pluralism.

Assimilation occurs when a group comes to lose its distinctive identity in a society.  This can happen through a “melting pot” process in which two or more groups’ identities are all melded together or it can occur through one group coming to conform to the other’s ways.  Most white ethnic groups in the United States have almost completely assimilated into mainstream American society.

Pluralism occurs when a group maintains its cultural identity.  This can occur on an equal basis (with the group being seen as different, but equal to others) or it can be unequal, with the group being discriminated against or otherwise abused.  Pluralism can be seen to a large degree in relations between white Americans and African Americans.

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