Human beings are social by nature. They never like to live in Isolation. They live in groups such as family, clan, tribal community, etc. These groups are known as natural groups of them. The reason why the human beings are social is that they are gregarious by nature. They are fond of group life. Apart from this, they form groups consciously with a view to satisfy their various needs. Thus they live in groups, natural arid artificial. They form these artificial groups consciously and continuously with the help of the fellow beings. Thanks to their circumstance and nature, they have always lived in groups.
Meaning of Social Group
A group means different things to different persons. Some people say that a group is a number of units of anything in close proximity to one another. Thus, a number of persons working together or sitting face to face in a single room or bus or railway compartment may be regarded as example of groups. Likewise, a number of houses on a street, number planes in an airport, a number of buses in a bus-stand or a number of trees in a forest may also be accepted as the other examples of groups.
According to some other people a group consists of individuals who do not know each other at all a group also implies any aggregation of human beings. But judging from the strict sociological point of view, the different versions of groups which we have already mentioned do not give us a correct idea about what a social group means.
Definition of Social Group
There are many scholars who have attempted defining social, group in different ways. Some of the important definitions are mentioned below.
Arnold W. Green says that, "a group is an aggregate of individuals which persists in time, which has one or more interests and activities in common and which is organized".
Mac Iver and Page think a group is any collection of human beings who are brought into social relationship with one another.
Ogburn and Nimkoff hold the view that, "Whenever two or more individuals come together and influence one another they may be said to constitute a social group".
E.S. Bogardus is of the opinion that a group is, "a number of persons, two or more who have some common objects of attention, who are stimulating to each other, who have a common loyalty and participate in similar activities.
Sheriff and Sheriff remarks that, "a group is a social unit which consists of a number of individuals who stand in (more or less) definite status and role relationship to one another and which possesses a set of values or norms of its own regulating the behavior of individual members at last in matters of consequence to group'.
Williams remarks that a social group, ‘’is a given aggregate of people playing interrelated roles are reorganized by themselves or others as a unit of interaction”.
Considering the definition given above, we reach the conclusion that a social group consists of such members who have reciprocal relations. The members are bound by a sense of unity. The “we”-feeling, dominate them. Their interests and ideals are common and behavior is similar. Two or more persons in interaction constitute a social group are bound by the common consciousness of interaction. The example of social groups include a family, husband and wife, a group of friends, political party, caste community, village, trade union, cricket club, social class etc.
Characteristics or Features of Social Group
It is not easy to point out the various characteristics of social group. Even then, eminent sociologists state that a social group possesses certain characteristics. These characteristics are evident from its various definitions, for instance are reflected in a group like family. We should discuss them in detail. They are stated below:
(1) Mutual relations or mutual attachment
The members of a social group must be mutually related to one another. A mere aggregate of individuals cannot constitute a social group unless reciprocal relationship exists among them. Therefore, mutual relations are considered essential for the formation of a social group. It is regarded as an important distinctive feature.
(2) Sense of unity
The sense of unity is another important feature of a social group. Each social group requires for the development of a feeling or sense of belonging. The members of a social group develop loyalty of feeling or sympathy among themselves in all matters because of the sense of unity. Thus, they are united with one another in this group.
(3) A sense of 'we' feeling
The members of social group develop a sense of unity. They treat the members of their own group as friends and the persons belonging to other groups as outsiders. They co-operate with them who belong to their groups in this sphere of the activity and all of them protect their interests unitedly.
(4) One or more common interests
The individuals who form a group should possess one or more than one interests and ideals. They constitute the group for the achievement of their common interests. The group is always formed on account of common interest alone.
(5) Similarity of behavior
The members of a group behave in a similar way because they have common interests, ideals and values or norms. In other words, the mode of behavior of the members in a group is more similar.
(6) Social rules or norms
Just as the state has laws to offer so, also a social group possesses certain rules or norms of its own. The members of the group follow the norms. He who deviates from the existing group norms is severely punished. The group exercises some control over its members through the prevailing rules or norms.