Types of Social Groups

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  • 0:02 Social Groups
  • 0:32 Types of Groups
  • 2:20 Size & Characteristics
  • 4:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore a few of the most important types of social groups sociologists have created to describe social interactions and the impact of size and social mentality. Afterwards, text yourself with a brief quiz.

Social Groups

Just about everybody has a friend. Some people have just a few friends, while other people have many friends. Many people can break their friends down into groups. We might play sports with some friends, while others might be our favorite coworkers. Heck, on social media, groups of 'friends' can get distorted to refer to thousands of acquaintances!

In this lesson, we'll define three different types of social groups and get acquainted with the characteristics of social groups of different size.

Types of Groups

The first and most basic social group is called a primary group. These are the most intimate and important groups to people and usually feature a small amount of individuals who are extremely close to one another. A traditional family, consisting of two parents and their offspring, is the most common primary group. However, it is certainly not the only one. Exceptionally close groups of friends are also considered primary groups, and these can sometimes take priority over the family unit in exceptional circumstances. It is possible, of course, to have more than one primary social group. Regardless of exactly who makes up the group, this small social circle makes up our primary source of socialization.

The second type of group is called a secondary group. Secondary groups can be small, like primary groups, but they can also be much larger. They tend to be made up of people we know through work, school, a volunteer group, etc. In other words, person-to-person socialization is not the sole reason for this relationship. Rather, the relationship is built upon a non-social goal or task. This can be anything from a recreational sports team to a group working on a class or work project. Of course, secondary and primary groups aren't always as separate as we might think; people cross from our secondary groups into our primary groups all the time. After all, most of us know at least one couple who met through working together or going to the same school.

Another type of social group is a reference group. Reference groups don't even have to include people we know. Instead, reference groups refer to a group of people with whom we identify ourselves. Think of them as your role models. For example, if you've always wanted to be a professional basketball player, chances are you pay attention to what professional basketball players like to wear and do, and you buy or do the same when you can. These activities are done so you will be recognized as a 'basketball player' socially.

Size & Characteristics

Now that we've established some basic types of social groups, it's important for us to distinguish the characteristics of group size. The most basic group, a group of two people, is referred to as a dyad. Dyads can arise from any situation but are often the most combustible of social groups; if just one person fails to fulfill his or her responsibilities as part of the group, the dyad falls apart. Triads, or groups of three, are more stable but considerably more complex.

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