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Social Sci LibreTexts

6.1C: Secondary Groups

Secondary groups are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal oriented; their relationships are temporary.

 

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

 

Outline the main distinctions between primary and secondary groups

 

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Key Points

 

  • The distinction between primary and secondary groups was originally proposed by Charles Cooley. He termed them “secondary” because they generally develop later in life and are much less likely to be influential on one’s identity than primary groups.
  • Secondary relationships involve weak emotional ties and little personal knowledge of one another. In contrast to primary groups, secondary groups don’t have the goal of maintaining and developing the relationships themselves.
  • Secondary groups include groups in which one exchanges explicit commodities, such as labor for wages, services for payments, and such. They also include university classes, athletic teams, and groups of co-workers.

 

Key Terms

 

  • primary group: It is typically a small social group whose members share close, personal, enduring relationships. These groups are marked by concern for one another, shared activities and culture, and long periods of time spent together.
  • group: A number of things or persons being in some relation to one another.
  • Secondary groups: They are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal-oriented.

Unlike first groups, secondary groups are large groups whose relationships are impersonal and goal oriented. People in a secondary group interact on a less personal level than in a primary group, and their relationships are generally temporary rather than long lasting. Some secondary groups may last for many years, though most are short term. Such groups also begin and end with very little significance in the lives of the people involved.

Secondary relationships involve weak emotional ties and little personal knowledge of one another. In contrast to primary groups, secondary groups don’t have the goal of maintaining and developing the relationships themselves.

 

Charles Cooley

 

The distinction between primary and secondary groups was originally proposed by Charles Cooley. He labeled groups as “primary” because people often experience such groups early in their life and such groups play an important role in the development of personal identity. Secondary groups generally develop later in life and are much less likely to be influential on one’s identity.

 

Functions

 

Since secondary groups are established to perform functions, people’s roles are more interchangeable. A secondary group is one you have chosen to be a part of. They are based on interests and activities. They are where many people can meet close friends or people they would just call acquaintances. Secondary groups are also groups in which one exchanges explicit commodities, such as labor for wages, services for payments, etc. Examples of these would be employment, vendor-to-client relationships, a doctor, a mechanic, an accountant, and such. A university class, an athletic team, and workers in an office all likely form secondary groups. Primary groups can form within secondary groups as relationships become more personal and close.

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Classmates as Secondary Groups: A class of students is generally considered a secondary group.

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Doctors as Secondary Groups: The doctor-patient relationship is another example of secondary groups.