We live, work, worship and die in groups. Man's daily life is made up largely of participating in groups. Not only our life becomes boring and unbearable without fellow human beings but also our very survival becomes problematic. Man's life is to an enormous extent a group life.
According to Maclver and Page, "Social group is any collection of human beings who are brought into human relationships with one another."
Characteristics of Social Group:
Following are the important characteristics of social group.
(1) Collection of individuals:
Social group consists of people. Without individuals there can be no group. Just as we cannot have a college or a university without students and teachers we cannot have a group in the absence of people.
(2) Interaction among members:
Social interaction is the very basis of group life. Hence, mere collection of individuals does not make a group. The members must have interaction. A social group is, in fact, a system of social interaction. The limits of social groups are marked by the limits of social interaction.
(3) Mutual awareness:
Group life involves mutual awareness. Group members are aware of one another and their behaviour is determined by this mutual recognition. This may be due to what Giddings calls, "Consciousness of kind".
We-feeling refers to the tendency on the part of the members to identify themselves with the groups. It represents group unity. We feeling creates sympathy and fosters co-operation among members.
(5) Group unity and solidarity:
Group members are tied by a sense of unity. The solidarity or integration of a group is largely depends upon the frequency, the variety, and the emotional quality of the interactions of its members.
(6) Common interests:
The interests and ideals of groups are common. In fact men not only join groups but also form groups for the realisation of their objectives or interests. Form of the groups differ depending upon the common interests of the group. Hence, there are political groups, religious groups, economic groups etc.
(7) Group norms:
Every group has its own rules and norms which the members are supposed to follow. These norms may be in the form of customs, folkways, mores, traditions, conventions, laws etc. They may be written or unwritten norms or standards.
(8) Similar behaviour:
The members of group behave in more or less similar way for the pursuit of common interests. Social groups represent collective behaviour.
(9) Size of the group:
Every group involves an idea of size. A group may be as small as that of 'two-members group e.g. husband and wife or as big as that of a political party having lakhs of members. Size will have its own impact on the character of the group.
(10) Groups are dynamic:
Social groups are not static but dynamic. They are subject to changes whether slow .or rapid. Old members die and new members are born. Whether due to internal or external pressures or forces, groups undergo changes.