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Primary and Secondary Groups

  1. English handbook for the third year students of the specialty «Land use planning and Cadastres» of the secondary specialized educational establishments
  2. Ex. 2. Read the words in the groups below. Pay attention to the word stress.
  3. Ex.3. Read the words in the groups bellow. Pay attention to the word stress.
  4. Exercise 20. In pairs or small groups, discuss the questions and exchange your ideas with the class.
  5. Exercise 7. Translate the following. Pay attention to the article with groups of proper names and geographic names.
  6. Exercise 8. Discuss the following problems in groups.

Several times a day, one person greets another with a smile and a simple phrase such as "Hi! How are you?" Of course, an honest reply may be actually expected, but not often. Usually the other person responds with a well-scripted "Fine, and how are you?" In most cases, providing a complete account of how one really is doing would lead the other person to make a hasty and awkward exit.

If we combine group dimensions of every kind, all groups can be classified into two major categories: primary and secondary groups. The extent of personal concern for others in social interaction was used by Charles Horton Cooley to draw a distinction between two general types of social groups. The primary group is a social group in which interaction is both personal and enduring. Within primary groups, people have personal and lasting ties Cooley designated as primary relationships. The members of primary groups share broad dimensions of their lives, generally come to know a great deal about one another, and display genuine concern for another's welfare. The family is perhaps the most important primary group within any society.

Cooley used the term primary because he believed that social groups of this kind are among the first groups we experience in life and are important in shaping our personal attitudes and behaviour. They are also of major importance in shaping our social identity, which is reflected in the fact that the members of any primary group typically think of themselves as "we."

The strength of primary relationships gives individuals a considerable sense of comfort and security, which is clearly evident in personal performances. Within the familiar social environment of family or friends, people tend to feel they can be themselves and not worry about being continually evaluated by others. At the office, for example, people are usually self-conscious about their clothing and behaviour; at home, they feel free to dress and act more or less as they wish.

Members of primary groups certainly provide many personal benefits to one another, including financial as well as emotional support. But people generally perceive the primary group as an end in itself rather than as a means to other ends. Thus, for example, we expect a family member or close friend to help us without pay when we move into a new apartment. At the same time, primary group members usually do expect that such help will be mutual. A person who consistently helps a friendwho never returns the favour is likely to feel used and question the depth of the friendship.

In contrast, in modern industrial societies, secondary group interactions are very important. A secondary group is a social group in which interaction is impersonal and transitory. Within a secondary group, which usually contains more people than a primary group, individuals share situational ties that are called secondary relationships. For example, individuals who work together in an office, enroll in the same college course, or belong to a particular political organization usually constitute a secondary group.

The opposite of the characteristics that describe primary groups apply to secondary groups. Secondary relationships involve little personal knowledge and weak emotional ties. They vary in duration, but are usually short-term, beginning and ending without particular significance. True, people may work in an office for decades with the same co-workers, but a more typical example of secondary relationships is students in a college course who never see one another after the semester ends. Since secondary groups are limited to a single specific activity or interest, their members have little chance to develop a deep concern for one another's overall welfare. Secondary groups are less significant than primary groups for personal identity. Although people in a secondary group sometimes think of themselves in terms of "we," the boundary that distinguishes members from nonmembers is usually far less clear than it is in primary, groups.

Secondary groups are important mostly as a means of achieving certain specific ends. If relationships within primary groups have a personal orientation, those within secondary groups have a goal orientation. This does not mean that secondary relationships are always formal and unemotional. On the contrary, social interaction with fellow students, co-workers, and business contacts canbe quite enjoyable. But personal pleasure is not what prompts the formation of secondary groups in the first place. In short, while members of a primary group have personal importance on the basis of who they are, members of secondary groups have significance on the basis of what they can do for us.

Individuals in primary groups are likely to be sensitive to patterns of social exchange - how benefits received by one member compare to those received by another - although such considerations are not of crucial importance. Within secondary groups, however, exchange is very important. In business transactions, for example, the people involved are keenly aware of what they receive for what they offer. Likewise, the secondary relationships that often characterize neighbours are based on the expectation that any neighbourly favour will be reciprocated in the future.

The goal orientation of secondary groups diverts the focus of social interaction from personal matters to mutually beneficial cooperation. With the wish to maximize these benefits, members of secondary groups are likely to craft their performances carefully, and usually expect others to do the same. Therefore, the secondary relationship is one in which the question "How are you?" may be politely asked without really wanting an answer.

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Questionnaires and Interviews | WORD STUDY | The Structure of Social Interaction | Social Structure and Individuality | Summary | WORD STUDY | UNIT VII | Strain and Conflict | WORD STUDY | Kinds of Groups |

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