Social Groups: Factors affecting Group Formation


  1. Introduction
  2. Pre- group Planning stage
  3. Composition of the Group 
  4. References 


We can identify four major factors that influence our decision to join and remain in a wide variety of groups: 
  • Attraction to members of the group 
  • Activities, goals, or the task of the group;
  • Affiliating with the people in the group; and iv. Meeting needs or goals lying outside the group.
The group's members attract each other because of their proximity and frequency of interaction. (Think about your own relationship groupings, which are mostly defined by who is available for interaction: neighbours, classmates, roommates, etc.) However, it's important to realise that proximity simply provides the possibility of attraction; other elements usually come into play when forming a relationship. Similarity, particularly attitudinal similarity, appears to have the same influence in group formation as it does in interpersonal attraction. When considering what makes a group appealing, we must also analyse the group's features. Several characteristics of groups make them more appealing to potential members, resulting in group formation.
  • The more prestige a group can offer a member, the more attractive the group. Members who have positions of higher authority and prestige are usually most attracted to remain in the group.
  • Co-operative relationships and joint rewards heighten the attractiveness of a group, whereas individual striving and competition detract from it. 
  • The degree of positive interaction among members directly affects attractiveness since it increases the range of personal and social needs being met. 
  • The size of the group affects its attraction. Smaller groups generally offer more possibility for interaction, for sharing similarities, and for meeting individual needs, and therefore tend to be more attractive. 
  • Positive relations with other groups may add to the prestige of the group and make it more attractive. 
  • Nothing succeeds like success. Groups that are perceived as meeting their goals effectively usually appear to be more attractive.
A group's mission, as expressed in its activities and aims, is frequently cited as a compelling incentive to join. You join a photography group because you enjoy shooting photographs and talking about them with other people. Because you cannot afford to pay more, you join a protest group against increased tuition rates. You are getting incentives directly through group participation in these situations. According to the application of social exchange theory to group formation, we join and stay in groups when the benefits surpass the costs, resulting in profits.

Our desire to identify with the people in that group is the third general factor in group formation. We meet our need for affiliation by engaging with individuals, just as we meet our desire for achievement by participating in group activities and achieving group goals. Whether we attach for social comparison, anxiety reduction, or to satisfy an underlying desire, it is apparent that the group is a powerful platform for meeting our basic social needs and has a significant impact on our behaviour.

Group membership may assist us in meeting requirements that are external to the group; as a result, group membership may serve as a stepping stone to achieving an external goal rather than a source of direct gratification. A college lecturer may attend professional association meetings on a regular basis to improve his or her chances of advancement. A political candidate might join a variety of community organisations to improve his or her prospects of being elected.

From the various factors influencing group formation the following hypothesis can be confidently stated:
  • People join groups in order to satisfy some individual need. 
  • Proximity, contact and interaction provide an opportunity for individuals to discover the need satisfactions that can be attained through affiliation with others. 
  • Interpersonal attraction is a positive function of physical attractiveness, attitude similarity, personality similarity, economic similarity, racial similarity, perceived ability of the other person (his or her success or failure) and need compatibility. 
  • An individual will join a group if he or she finds the activities of the group attractive or rewarding. 
  • An individual will join a group if he or she values the goals of the group. 
  • There exists a need for affiliation which renders group membership rewarding. 
  • An individual will join a group if he or she perceives it to be instrumental in satisfying needs outside the group. 
  • Group development follows a consistent pattern, which may be characterized as orientationevaluation-control.
Personal skills and attitudes of you, the mobilizer, in forming a group are also crucial to success. The following are a few pointers. As a mobilizer, you need:
  • Patience (People tend to change slowly; do not try to hurry the process up too much);
  • Empathy (You need understanding of community members and their problems; the ability to see things as they do) 
  • Business Knowledge (You need a thorough understanding of the business side of the group's future activity, and an ability to explain it in simple terms); 
  • Commitment (You must be thoroughly convinced of the value of what you are doing, and willingness to do it well); 
  • Realism (You must be able to give practical help in a realistic way); 
  • Respect (People may be poor but they are not stupid and resent the "big master" approach and may be suspicious of any tendency to a "know-it-all;" approach); and 
  • Honesty and Integrity (Your reputation is your most important asset as a mobilizer).

Pre- group Planning stage

The process of working with a group has been researched by several authors. The steps of the procedure are not agreed upon since different writers use different terminologies to describe them. The number of phases varies depending on the author. Some begin with the pre-group formation stage and progress to the termination or final stage, while others begin with the first stage or phase and go to the final stage. However, there is some consistency in conceiving that the process should begin with planning and end with the worker withdrawing from active involvement. Everyone talks about planning activities, as Toseland and Rivas (2001) put it. Making decisions on the target population, the broad objectives to be pursued, resource availability, and other issues pertinent to India are all part of the planning process. Some people call the planning stage the orientation stage, while others simply call it the beginning step. The following step is the working stage, in which the group has begun to function and is attempting to achieve some objectives. Various authors consider it necessary to do an assessment of what is going on in the group at this point. The pregroup planning phase is given below for a clear grasp of the beginning of the process while working with a group.

Many times, the conventional assumption is that the members' needs are well understood, such as children and youth's economic or recreational needs. When the concept of joining a group is discussed, however, few people are interested. The reason for this is that children do not feel the need to play in a structured group. Things in their daily lives have never been structured, and many people are unfamiliar with the concept of organisation. As a result, convincing people to embrace the concept takes a long time. It is critical for the establishment of a group that a worker presents the notion of forming a group in a clear and unambiguous manner to potential members. Second, workers must explicitly demonstrate how the group activities will address a specific member need. It is impossible to overstate the value of taking a participatory approach. Because her own opinions may differ from those of the clients, the worker should carefully examine the clients' needs. If the members' impression of what the group can produce differs significantly from that of the worker, group development will be delayed or nonexistent. To explain the idea and objective of group formation, the worker should contact members individually and in groups. At this point, the worker should be wary about pressuring members to accept the concept. It's possible that clients will simply agree to join the group in order to please the worker, but then fail to show up later. To pique members' attention, the worker should be assertive and take actions/decisions that produce results in the initial few sessions of group creation.

Pre-group planning in therapy or support groups for people with problems would discuss the value of sharing problems with others who have similar problems and how this would lead to greater clarity among members in dealing with the situation. As Yalon (1995) indicated, the worker's goal should be to prepare the members for forming an alliance. Give members an overview of how a group therapy session works and how group therapy can improve inter-personal relationships. The worker can also assist them in understanding the basic guidelines of group therapy participation. Members can also be informed about the group's duration, size, nature, and meeting location.

Composition of the Group

The nature of membership depends on the purpose of the group and its goals. Client or target population is an important factor in determining the composition of the group. Corey and Corey (2006) recommend a homogenous membership in treatment oriented groups. In task oriented groups, some element of diversity is helpful in getting better expertise level to address the task.

Collect details about the members on the following points: 
  • The socio-economic background of members
  • Geographical location-urban, rural, tribal 
  • Client group-children, women etc. 
  • Earlier experience of the group participation 
  • Reasons for joining the group 
  • Individual need assessment 
After reviewing the details, make a choice concerning the group's composition. Collecting information on these topics will assist the worker in being more organised in their work. It will provide her some insight into the potential members' backgrounds. Examine the group goals carefully to ensure that they are in line with the requirements of the members.

Size of the Group

The aim of the group and the needs of the members should be considered while deciding on the group's size. In Indian conditions, the worker is sometimes faced with the difficulty of how to say no to others who want to join the organisation but can't because of a lack of resources. Larger organisations, on the other hand, provide more ideas, talents, and resources (Douglas, 1979). Self-help groups are allowed to have more members to make them financially sustainable, whereas treatment groups are maintained small to allow the worker to focus on each individual. The size is determined by numerous criteria, including the worker's expertise and the clients' age group.

Nature of Group Membership 

The group's aim and length are taken into account when deciding whether to maintain membership closed or open. It is preferable in growth-oriented groups to enable new members to join if there are vacancies, in order to broaden the group's experience and provide an opportunity to a greater number of people. Admission of new members to treatment groups is problematic since it disrupts the group's established environment.

Duration of the Group

The duration is determined by the objective, experience, and capacity of the participants to complete the task in the time allotted. Many group facilitators attempt to build long-term groups. The overall goal is to make the group self-sufficient and able to function on its own. Self-help groups of all kinds in India are a good example. Treatment-oriented groups are short-term groups that meet for a set period of time to achieve specific goals. Women's groups and street children's groups are examples of long-term support groups.

Frequency of Group Meetings

The frequency of group meetings should be determined by the purpose, members' convenience, and the workers' personal workload, among other factors. As a result, there is no set methodology for deciding the matter. Children's recreation groups, for example, meet more frequently than support groups, which meet once a week or once every 15 days, and self-help or saving groups, which meet weekly or once a month, and so on. The frequency of treatment groups is determined mainly by the needs of the participants.

Place of Meeting

A meeting location must be chosen based on the members' convenience as well as the amenities in terms of space and other resources required for group activity. Changing meeting locations frequently is known to cause problems and should be avoided. Members' assent to the meeting location is beneficial since the location can sometimes have a significant impact on participation.


  • Douglas, Tom (1979), Group Process in Social Work, John Wiley & Sons, New York. 
  • Konopka, Gisela. 1963. Social Group Work: A Helping Process. Englewood Ciffs, N.J. PrenticeHall. 
  • Siddiqui, H.Y. 2008. Group Work: Theories and Practices. Rawat Publications, Jaipur. 
  • Toseland, R.W. & Rivas R F. 2001. An Introduction to Group Work Practice. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. 


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