A patterned interaction (i.e., a regularity in the social relations, based on the shared beliefs, values and norms).
The interaction is sustained over a period of time.
The groups are formed in order to satisfy some human needs. A basic need is survival and a family (an example of a group) enables us to meet this need.
The solidarity of a group is dependent upon the frequency of interaction and the emotional attachment.
Kinds of Social Groups(based on the extent of attachment the individual would have to a group)
1. Primary group
Defined as one in which the members have very close or intimate relations and there is an emotional involvement.
It has been defined as primary because it is this group, which is chiefly responsible for nurture of social ideas of the individual.
Personality of an individual is involved in a primary group.
The best example of the primary group is the family.
The primary groups (family, play groups, a community, etc.) also acts as a link between the individual and the larger society.
2. Secondary group
Defined as one in which the members interact with one another in a very specific range of activities.
The relationships in the secondary group are more casual, impersonal and for specific purposes.
A student body of a large college is a secondary group as they interact as students.
People working in a factory are also an example of a secondary group as they relate to each other as workers.
The understanding of the nature of the groups and their functions is very important for understanding social behaviour.
Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
Ferdinand Tonnies (1855 - 1936), a noted German sociologist, while examining different kinds of societies found that there were 2 kinds of social groups:
In small homogeneous societies members interacted with one another on face to face, informal basis. In these groups tradition dictated social behavior. Tonnies called this kind of society a Gemeinschaft, which means broadly "a communal, or traditional society".
Large and heterogeneous societies, such as the modern industrial societies, relationships among members are impersonal, formal, functional and specialized. These societies have often contractual relationships which are on the basis of clear cut, legal contracts rather than being governed by traditions. Tonnies calls these societies Gesellschaft, or "associational societies".