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Persistence of Primary Social Groups

Updated on April 17, 2016

Members of a primary group, usually live together or are in close proximity to each other. sometimes, however, an individual member, may be separated by distance from others while still remaining a part of his group. For instance, a young man may travel from France to the united states or Japan, but the primary group ties with his family are sustained by letters, packages, telephone calls, to and from home, as well as short visits during holidays. The sustaining power of primary group support is too glaring for all to see. Each person seems to need membership in a small group of human beings who really care whether he lives or dies. solitary confinement, is often considered a punishment worse than death, and can lead to a mental breakdown. Whenever people are separated from family and friends and made part of such impersonal surroundings as those that exist in large universities, industries, or the armed forces, they quickly form or join primary groups in order to satisfy their emotional needs.

The survival of the family as a social institution is another additional evidence of the persistence of primary groups. in the early history of countries like the united states, such functions as child care, education, recreation, religious training and social protections were traditionally fulfilled by the family. As public schools, churches welfare agencies, community centers and other institutions began to assume these functions in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, many social critics, parents, teachers and ministers felt that family was in danger of disintegration. However the social disorganization occasioned by this rejection led to a reversal of the policy and the acceptance of the family as an inevitable part of social organization and quest for economic development. Although there has been dramatic increase in the number of divorces in recent times, there has been no convincing evidence that marriage and family life are about to disappear.

Furthermore, the rate of remarriages in the societies today is quite high and many of these remarriages endure. in modern industrial societies, people move from job to job and from one part of the country to another. under such circumstances, permanent relationships, are difficult to achieve, thus the emphasis on the family as a primary group, serving as a source of stability and of emotional support. This situations is equally observable in all modernizing industrializing societies.

Primary Groups In Large Organizations

Despite the formalistic impersonality characteristic of large organization, individuals within it are still persons who need to be treated as unique individuals. consequently, small informal groups do naturally develop within large organizations. For instances secretaries from the same department who enjoy getting together in the same place day after day. people usually want to be more than just superficially related unknown in large formal organizations. By establishing personal relationships with members and officials of the organization, they create primary groups that serve as necessary havens or "city refuge" in which each individual feels he belongs to the organization in a personal way.

One of the most important functions associated with primary groups in formal organizations is captured by the phase " mediation rules hypothesis". They mediate between the individuals personal emotional needs and the impersonal goal-oriented organization. The group can help the member meet the production norms of the company, or protect him from his supervisor, covering his duty in an unapproved absence from work. These groups may also decide whether to support or reject the goals of the large organization. Where they choose to reject the goals of an organization, say as it regards production levels, they develop their own production norms and ceiling. Researches have shown that such groups have established what they regard as "normal days work". They have production norms, stipulating how fast they have to work to keep the operation running smoothly, they also knew how fast was too fast and sometimes consider their health and personal circumstances more important than the organizational goal of increased production levels. in this case, management may have to settle for the standard set by this primary group in order not to affect the morale or disrupt the activities in the organization

In such circumstance, even new entrants into an organization are usually socialized to conform to such norms established by primary groups. Those who refuse to conform are usually punished through ridicule, social isolation and even violence. it is important to note that primary groups in large organizations do not always undermine efficiency. Leaders in large organization are more successful in achieving the goals of their organization, if they acknowledge the existence of informal groups and provide incentives that will strengthen rather than dissolve such groups.


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