Social Group

We explain what a social group is, what its characteristics and examples are. In addition, we tell you what their functions are.

The workers of a company make up a social group.
A social group has a shared identity, an evident purpose, and a defined structure.

What is a social group?

A social group is a set of human beings in social interrelation, that is, a set of three or more individuals who fulfill an established role within society. Such groups are easily identified because they have a shared identity, an obvious purpose, and a defined form and structure, plus they act in accordance with certain values, norms and own codes.

Social groups can encompass a few individuals or an entire nation, as long as they meet the fundamental requirements of a common culture and a determined structure and purpose. It is, therefore, a difficult concept to delimit in exact terms, coming from the social sciences and applied to different realities. In fact, the concept can have different treatments depending on the author that is consulted.

The core of social groups is the cohesion between their members, that is, the tendency to gather in defense or promotion of certain values ​​considered “own” by its members. For example, it can be groups of people of the same ethnic origin, of the same sexual preference or the same ideology, who act in a coordinated way to defend their shared vision of society.

Finally, it is important not to confuse social groups with social classes. People from different strata can be considered in the same social group, but with the same social purpose.

See also: Social relations

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Characteristics of a social group

An amateur orchestra is a social group with a defined activity.
A social group assigns specific social roles to each member.

In general, a social group is characterized by the following:

  • It is made up of a group of individuals, generally three or more, organized around a common purpose or certain interests common.
  • Group members share a sense of cultural or social identity, that is, an idea of ​​one’s own and of a “we”. This identity also encompasses a set of values ​​and a vision of society.
  • Has a definite structurewhich assigns specific social roles to each member, and sets out norms and laws specific to the group.
  • Tends to durabilitythat is, to permanence in time.
  • It can be of different typesand the most popular of his classifications distinguishes between primary groups (made up of close and intimate relationships) and secondary groups (made up of rational and impersonal relationships).

Functions of a social group

Social groups may pursue different functions and purposes, depending on the norms, values, and material needs of each society. They can pursue changes, request claims or encourage debatesamong other things, always facing the fundamental notion of the group’s identity, that is, always taking into account the defense of the group’s social interests.

For example, a social group made up of Afro-descendant citizens in a country of Caucasian elites can fight to make institutional racism visible, to spread African heritage traditions and/or to organize Afro-descendant citizens so that they can fight more effectively for their rights.

Examples of Social Groups

Examples of social groups are:

  • The families and family groupswho share a blood bond and a common intimate history.
  • sports clubsin which practitioners and fans of certain specific sports are organized, in order to share their hobby.
  • labor unionsin which the workers and professionals of a certain area are organized, to be able to negotiate more effectively with their employers and with the State.
  • Urban gangs and tribesin which young people share a notion of identity, material and cultural consumption, and a shared vision of their generation.
  • The feminist collectivesin which women of different ages organize to demand the State for gender policies that defend their rights and prevent gender discrimination.
  • Neighborhood groupsin which the residents of the same neighborhood or of the same urbanization meet to discuss matters of collective interest and that afflict the neighborhood.
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Primary and Secondary Social Groups

A group of friends walk down the street, they are a primary social group.
In the primary groups there are more intimate relationships and they are not based on a specific activity.

According to the classification established by the American sociologist Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), social groups are classified as:

  • primary groups. Those in which its members have intimate and personal relationships, face to face, as occurs with families, friends and close associates.
  • secondary groups. Those in which its members are not linked in an intimate and personal way, but rational, professional, legal or contractual, of a more abstract type and typical of civil associations.

Later elaborations on the subject, such as those of the American sociologist Talcott Parsons (1902-1979), distinguish five features that differentiate primary groups from secondary ones and that have to do with the relationships between their members:

Relationships in primary groups Relationships in secondary groups
Less specific and more diffuse. More specific and delimited.
Private and individual. Universal and general.
Based on identity (who or what you are). They tend to be based on activity (what is done or was done).
Oriented towards the group or towards the community. Oriented towards the individual.
Affective or great emotional bond. They tend to be rationally or emotionally neutral.

social processes

Social processes are the set of dynamic actions and events that take place within society and directly affect the way it is structured or organized. These are processes of sociological interest, that is, the study of which allows us to understand the behavior patterns of the social groups in a community.

There can be many types of social processes, in which dynamics of

  • Cooperation (collaboration between social groups).
  • Competition (rivalry between social groups).
  • Accommodation (rearrangement of the forces of social groups)
  • Assimilation (fusion of social groups).
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More in: Social processes

Social classes

Social classes are the different socioeconomic strata in which it is possible to classify or distinguish the individuals of a society. The elements from which each social class is defined may be different depending on the socioeconomic model of the society, but in general they have to do with the quality of life and the margins of availability of resources.

Thus, for example, in the modern world of industrial capitalism, social classes are distinguished on the basis of wealth and the economic satisfaction of basic needs: the lower class, unable to fully cover their basic needs or barely able to do so; the middle class, able to meet their basic needs but unable to amass capital and property; and the upper class, capable of consuming luxury goods and services and amassing capital and property.

In other times and societies, throughout history, social classes have been different and have been formed differently.

More in: Social classes


  • “Social group” on Wikipedia.
  • “Social class” on Wikipedia.
  • “Social group” in the Asylum Dictionary of the Commission for Aid to Refugees in Euskadi (Spain).
  • “Social group” in The Encyclopaedia Britannica.