11 julio, 2024

Secondary groups: characteristics and examples

The secondary groups They are more or less stable groups of people who relate to each other mainly to achieve a common goal or because circumstances force them to do so. The existing relationships between its members tend to be superficial and not very intimate, and usually disappear when the common goal is stopped.

Along with primary groups, secondary groups form the basis of our social relationships. For this reason sociology tries to understand them in depth, being able to find a multitude of theories about their nature, their characteristics, how they affect their members and the way in which they are formed.

Generally, a person begins to be part of a secondary group when they find a group of individuals with whom they have to live or collaborate due to their circumstances. For example, in a work context, the group of employees could form a group of this nature.

In most cases, secondary groups dissolve as soon as the context or task that led to their formation disappears. For this reason they do not have as much influence over their members as the primaries.

In addition, the members usually play a rather passive role in their formation, and it is rare to find deep connections between the participants.


Characteristics of secondary groups

– Formal and impersonal relationships

In a primary group, the members of the group usually form deep and lasting bonds with each other, in such a way that they have a great mutual influence. In secondary groups, on the other hand, the relationships between the members tend to be much more impersonal, have a formal tinge and hardly exert any influence on each one of them.

One of the most important consequences of this characteristic is that it is unusual to find warmth or emotional support in secondary group relationships. Generally, the interactions between its members are based on the common tasks they have to perform, and tend to ignore other more intimate aspects.

For this reason, people belonging to a secondary group do not exert a great influence on each other. For example, although we may care what our coworkers think of us, their ideas will never carry as much weight as those of our family, friends, or partner.

In some cases, the members of a secondary group may not even know each other in person or even have heard of each other. For example, the employees of a company in Spain do not have to know their colleagues in the United States or Colombia.

– Large number of members

Due to their characteristics, the primary groups have to be composed of a limited number of members. By contrast, secondary groups can have as many components as necessary, with some of them made up of hundreds of thousands of people.

For example, some large multinational companies might form sub-groups of this type, with all their employees forming part of a global network in which the members are not very closely related but have some common characteristics.

– Optional membership

In most cases, belonging to a primary group is not optional: most people do not choose to join a very close family or group of friends, but different circumstances and chances lead them to belong to one of them. these communities.

On the contrary, membership in a secondary group is usually completely optional and in many cases motivated by conscious decisions on the part of the individual. For example, going to work in a company or belonging to a club is something that totally depends on the person.

– Varying levels of member activity

We have already seen that secondary groups tend to be large. As a consequence, its members tend to fulfill very different roles and act in completely different ways depending on their interests, the roles they have to fulfill, their motivation and their objectives.

For example, in a political party some of the members act as spokespersons and representatives, while many affiliates limit themselves to paying their annual fee and hardly pay attention to the decisions and actions of the rest.

– Existence of formal rules

Contrary to what happens in primary groups, in secondary groups it is very common for the relationships between its members to be determined by a series of formal and explicit rules that all members have to comply with.

These rules are responsible for maintaining the stability of the group and creating the best possible conditions for it to achieve the objectives for which it was created.

On the other hand, secondary groups usually have some kind of hierarchy, with those at the top of the hierarchy being the ones in charge of establishing the rules. In this way each of its members knows the role they have to play.

– Status depends on position

In primary groups, all members have a similar social position, and the reciprocal nature of the relationships means that there is not a very marked hierarchy.

On the contrary, in secondary groups each one of the members has a different status that depends to a great extent on the social position they occupy and their role within the group.

Thus, in a company the social status of the boss is much higher than that of each of the employees, who have to comply with their orders if they do not want to lose their job. Something similar occurs in other contexts in which this hierarchy is less explicit, such as in a neighborhood association or in a church.

– They are goal oriented

The main objective of a secondary group is to fulfill a specific function. For example, a school aims to provide education for children in the area. The success of a secondary group will therefore be measured by its ability to meet its goal.


With the exception of our family, our closest friends, and our partner, all of our relationships are formed in the context of a secondary group.

Some of the most common examples could be our fellow students or colleagues, members of a club to which we belong, or members of a political party.


“Types of social groups”in: Lumen. Retrieved on: May 17, 2020 from Lumen: courses.lumenlearning.com.
“Secondary Groups: Functions, Characteristics, Classification and Importance”in: Your Article Library. Retrieved on: May 17, 2020 from Your Article Library: yourarticlelibrary.com.
“Understanding Primary and Secondary Groups in Sociology”in: Thought Co. Retrieved on: May 17, 2020 from Thought Co: thoughtco.com.
“8 Main Characteristics of Secondary Group | Sociology”in: Sociology Discussion. Retrieved on: May 17, 2020 from Sociology Discussion: sociologydiscussion.com.
“Types of social groups” in: Wikipedia. Retrieved on: May 17, 2020 from Wikipedia: en.wikipedia.org.

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