How do primary groups differ from secondary groups? Use examples from your own life to explain.

Primary groups differ from secondary groups in the quality, length, and breadth of the relationships. They also differ in their purposes. My primary groups are my family, my rowing team, and my online chat group. I’m close with my siblings and see them frequently—I even share an apartment with my older brother. Our relationship is based on friendship, without any other goal. I also spend many hours per week with the rowing team. Although our relationship began as a secondary group with the common goal of winning races, we have now become friends who do things together other than row. Even though I have never physically met the members of my online chat groups, we talk multiple times a day on a variety of subjects and have done so for over a year. My secondary groups are the student body and the workplace. I study best alone and don’t have time to talk between classes. I don’t like my job, so I spend as little time there as possible.

Have you ever been a member of a bureaucracy? How do you know it was a bureaucracy? Did it function as an ideal type?

I spent one summer doing data entry for a national health-insurance company, a big bureaucracy. I knew it was a bureaucracy because everybody had a specific job to do, and there was no crossover between jobs. There was also a clear hierarchy; we all knew to whom each individual reported. On my first day, I was given a packet thirty pages long about all of the rules that existed, how to fill out time sheets, etc. It was not an ideal bureaucracy because many people bore loyalty to other people, rather than to the company, and others hated their supervisors and left the company because of them.

What reference groups do you use? What kinds of comparisons do you make between the individuals in your reference groups and yourself? What are the problems with using this group as a reference group?

My main reference group is the people with whom I graduated high school. I compare myself to them in terms of what colleges we were accepted to, the colleges we decided to attend, what our majors are, and what kind of grades we make. One problem in using this group as a reference group is that the majority of the group are underachievers. Most of us selected colleges where we could succeed easily without having to learn much more than we did in high school. In relation to this group, I am successful, but these people are not representative of the general college population.

What are the positive and negative aspects of group dynamics?

Group dynamics is the term that implies that our thoughts and behaviors are influenced by the groups we are members of and, in turn, we influence how the group as a whole thinks and behaves. When a group adopts a behavior that is socially acceptable or appropriate, such as following the rules of the road, then the group dynamic is a positive one. Sometimes, an individual driver can influence the group. For example, if you are driving on a highway and one person is braking or driving more slowly than the majority of the drivers, the group will slow down. Ultimately, the influence is positive, since there will be fewer accidents. The negative aspects of group dynamics include groupthink. One or two individuals may know that a decision is wrong or dangerous, but they go along with the group decision in order not to be ostracized.

Over 100 years ago, Durkheim identified three characteristics that made a person more vulnerable to committing suicide. What are these characteristics, and how applicable are they today?

According to Durkheim, the people most likely to commit suicide are those suffering from social isolation, or anomie. Most often, these people are single, male Protestants. These categories are still valid today. Men are four times more likely than women to commit suicide. Divorced, widowed, or otherwise single men are more likely to commit suicide than married men. This group includes elderly men whose wives have died. Protestants are more likely to commit suicide than Jews or Catholics because Protestants generally don’t form communities as tightly knit as those of Jews and Catholics.

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