Groups are a fundamental part of social life. They can be very small - just two people - or very large. They can be highly rewarding to their members and to society as a whole, but there are also significant problems and dangers with them. All this makes them an essential focus for research, exploration and action. Just how we define 'group' and the characteristics or ideas we use has been a matter of debate for many years. The significance of collectivities like families, friendship circles, and tribes and clans has been long recognized, but it is really only in the last century or so that groups were studied scientifically and theory developed
As interest in group processes and group dynamics developed and accelerated (most particularly since the 1980s) the research base of the area strengthened. Not unexpectedly, the main arenas for the exploration of groups, and for building theory about them, have continued to be sociology and social psychology. As well as trying to make sense of human behaviour – why people join groups and what they get from them (both good and bad) – the study of groups has had a direct impact on practice in a number of areas of life. Perhaps the most obvious is work – and the contexts and practices of teams. But it has also acted as a spur to development in those fields of education, therapy, social care and social action that use groups to foster change. DEFINATION
Hundreds of fish swimming together are called a school. A pack of foraging baboons is a troupe. A half dozen crows on a telephone line is a murder. A gam is a group of whales. But what is a collection of human beings called? A group. ….collections of people may seem unique, but each possesses that one critical element that defines a group: connections linking the individual members…. members are linked together in a web of interpersonal relationships. Thus, a group is defined as two or more individuals who are connected to one another by social relationships. This definition has the merit of bringing together three elements: the number of individuals involved; connection, and relationship. When people talk about groups they often are describing collectivities with two members or three members. For example, a work team or study group will often comprise two or three people. However, groups can be very large collectivities of people such a crowd or religious congregation or gathering. As might be expected, there are differences in some aspects of behaviour between small and larger groupings. A set of people engage in frequent interactions
They identify with one another.
They are defined by others as a group.
They share beliefs, values, and norms about areas of common interest. ·
They define themselves as a group.
They come together to work on common tasks and for agreed purposes
Types of groups
There are various ways of classifying groups, for example in terms of their purpose or structure, but two sets of categories have retained their usefulness for both practitioners and researchers. They involve the distinctions between: ·
primary and secondary groups; and
planned and emergent group.
If all groups are important to their members and to society, some groups are more important than others. Early in the twentieth century, Charles H. Cooley gave the name, primary groups, to those groups that he said are characterized by intimate face-to-face association and those are fundamental in the development and continued adjustment of their members. He identified three basic primary groups, the family, the child's play group, and the neighborhoods or community among adults. These groups, he said, are almost universal in all societies; they give to people their earliest and most complete experiences of social unity; they are instrumental in the development of the social life; and they promote the integration of their members in the larger society. Since Cooley wrote, over 65 years ago,...
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