Humans have a natural tendency to form groups, and a single person can be a part of several groups at a time.

Primary Groups and Secondary Groups

A person can belong to several groups at once, but not all of those groups will be of the same importance or have the same effect or role in his or her life.

A primary group offers a great deal of intimacy. Members of a primary group meet the following criteria:

  • Meet frequently on a face-to-face basis.
  • Have a sense of identity or belonging that lasts a long time.
  • Share little task orientation.
  • Have emotional intimacy.

A secondary group is more formal and less personal. Members of a secondary group meet the following criteria:

  • Do not meet frequently, or they meet only for short periods of time.
  • Share a sense of identity or belonging only until the group ends.
  • Are task-oriented.
  • Feel little emotional intimacy.

Example: A family is an example of a primary group, and an after-school job in a fast-food restaurant is an example of a secondary group.


Family (primary group)

After-school job (secondary group)

Frequency of meeting

Every day for years or decades

Several hours a week, probably less or none if the person finds a different job

Duration of sense of identity

A lifetime, despite changes in comp-osition (moving out, divorce, remarriage, or death)

Usually disappears when not at place of work

Task orientation

None. A person belongs to family simply by virtue of existence.

A person is there to accomplish a specific task and do his or her job.

Emotional intimacy

Strong. Family members see each other at their best and worst and are privy to one another’s feelings.

It is inappropriate to show strong emotion or to discuss personal problems. Relation-ships are generally impersonal and work-related.

Popular pages: Social Groups and Organizations