Difference Between Primary Group and Secondary Group

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: June 03, 2023


Difference Between Primary Group and Secondary Group

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Groups are an important part of one’s life. People tend to join different groups throughout their life. An individual cannot thrive alone without any groups. Many times people join groups unintentionally. Sociology has divided group formation basically into two parts. One is the primary group and the other is the secondary group. Some sociologists concentrate their research on social groupings because they are good examples of how both individuals and groups influence one another's behavior. Other than the primary group and the secondary group there is one more group that is of the same importance as of these two groups. The group is the tertiary group. This group is a combination of both the primary and secondary groups. Here, we will discuss the two groups only, the primary group and the secondary group.

Primary group vs Secondary group

In most cases, primary groups are organized informally, and the norms are more likely to be implicit and passed down through socialization. As opposed to the secondary group, which is formally organized and managed. The primary groups are formed naturally without any special efforts. Whereas, the secondary group required special effort and motivation for the formation of the group. In contrast to the secondary group, where the task or objective for which the group is formed is the primary focus, the primary group's focus is on the relationship. As a result, while the primary group is created to meet emotional and social requirements, the secondary group is created to serve more practical goals, including accomplishing a common objective or finishing a particular work. Taking a sports team as an illustration, its members get together to pursue the shared objective of winning matches and championships. In opposition to this, a family is a primary group in which members join together to meet their social and emotional needs, such as love, support, and a sense of belonging. In the initial stages, everyone is involved. Everybody in this group is acquainted with one another intimately and cares about the entire human being. Secondary relationships, however, do not cover all situations. Members in this community are acquaintances to their fellow members and are not interested in every element of members' lives. Direct collaboration exists between members of a primary group, but indirect cooperation prevails amongst members of a secondary group. Cooperation is required to achieve the predetermined goals.

Difference between the primary group and secondary group in tabular form

Parameters of comparisonPrimary groupSecondary group
MeaningThe primary group is formed out of emotions and one’s social connections.A secondary group on the other side does not involve emotional connection. There is some other motive behind the formation of such groups.
CoverageThe primary group covers a small area.The size and area covered by the second group are quite large.
FocusThe primary group mainly focuses on the intimacy of the relationships.The main focus in the secondary group is the completion of the assigned task in an effective manner.
ApproachThe approach used by the primary group is personal and direct.The approach used in the second group is formal and impersonal.
NatureThe nature of the primary group is informal.The secondary group is informal in nature.

What is the primary group?

The concept of the primary group was introduced by the sociologist Charles Horton Cooley in the early 20th century. In his concept of the basic group, Cooley highlights "face-to-face association" and the relationship of "sympathy and mutual identification," i.e., the 'we' sentiments. The primary group is typically small and comprised of people who have strong, enduring bonds with one another, such as those seen in marriage, close friendships, and families. primary groups play a crucial role in defining a person's identity since they provide a variety of sturdy connections in life in various situations. In addition to having a close emotional connection, the group members care for one another. They have a strong connection with each other and can get along with one another in many situations. The primary groups are formed at the initial stage of their lives.

Family is the most crucial and dominant factor that helps in building or primary group. When an individual is born the first group of people they interact with is their close family and loved ones. The family proved endless love and support to nurture them for their future and upcoming lives. There is no better place than a family in the world and every human being deserves family love and support to survive in society. Thus, we can say that the primary groups play a vital role in the upbringing of an individual and helps in the process of socialization.

Characteristics of the primary group

Now we will be discussing some of the characteristics of the primary group which are as follows:

Small size

Only in a small group are relationships able to be private and intimate. There is always a tipping point where more membership equals "dispersion instead of concentration, dilution instead of reinforcement of the common interest." A large number of people cannot be in sensory contact with one another at once. Each member of a group counts less as a unique individual and more as a mere cipher or unit as the group size increases.

Shared interest

People must think first about the shared interest. People won't accurately portray the true nature of the primary group if they gather only to satisfy their own needs; this genuine nature will only be properly expressed if they do so to study a common topic or resolve a shared issue. The members enjoy and are content in their minds because of their shared interests.


Only when there is an appropriate degree of consistency among the group members can relationships between them be solid. Intimacy may not develop between members when individuals frequently enter and exit the group.

Intensity of groups

Each member of the primary group shares a common interest, which is relevant for all as well as valued by all. The group forms a good intensity among the members.

What is the secondary group?

The associations that a person joins later throughout their careers are known as secondary groups. Additionally, these groups have less of an impact on an individual's identity. People select these groupings based on their preferences and interests. It may include close friends, family members, coworkers, colleagues, and acquaintances. Sometimes people join the secondary groups out of peer pressure by the influence of their known people. The group's members don't divulge a lot of confidential data to one another, and there aren't any consistent outings that foster feelings of affection. Members of the second group can concentrate on abilities and particular interests rather than personality. The focus is on developing the necessary skills required for the task for which the groups have been formed. Many times the group is often referred to as the special-interest group. The group is called special interest as the name suggests the group is formed for achieving some special interest.

Usually, a person joins a secondary group voluntarily because they have a common interest with the other participants. We can take the example of people who shared similar interests in a particular thing such as dancing, music, or any other creative thing. Since the encounters are less intimate, they frequently last very momentarily before fading away once the objectives have been achieved. The people who make up the group don't divulge a lot of sensitive data to one another, and there aren't any consistent outings that foster feelings of affection.

Characteristics of secondary group

Similarly, we will be discussing some of the features of the second group which are as follows:

Size of the group

When we say a group is massive in size, we indicate that it may be made up of a great number of distinct individuals or that it may be dispersed over a wide region. The members are diverse in their interests. Overall, a massive group is characterized by its large size and diverse membership.

Interaction level

A secondary group's members hardly ever interact with one another personally. Because of this lack of intimacy, some members are active while others are not. Overall, it appears that members of secondary groups may not feel close to each other while participating in varied degrees of activity due to the absence of human interaction. There is a lack of personal touch or intimacy among the members of a secondary group.

Duration of the group

The group formed has always an expiry date. What started will initially come to an end. Goals are the focus of secondary groupings. So, in the second group, relationships are seen as tools for achieving an end rather than as an end in and of themselves. To achieve the purposes or objectives, members of secondary divisions operate as the means.

Voluntary membership

Secondary group participation is optional rather than required. Individuals have the wonderful freedom to join secondary groups. The primary groupings concentrate on goals. As a result, partnerships aren't considered as ends in and of themselves within the second group instead functioning as a means to an end. Members of secondary groups act as a means to attain the goals or intents.

Difference between the primary group and secondary group in points

  • The primary relationship involves everyone. Everyone in this group is acquainted with one another intimately and cares deeply about all facets of human life. However, a secondary relationship is not universal.
  • The primary group has a more significant effect on how a person's personality evolves. compared to the second group, which has a smaller impact on individuals or, to phrase it in another way, its influence lasts for a shorter amount of time.
  • Primary groups typically keep going longer than those that are secondary because emotional exchanges enhance the connection between them.
  • Members of a secondary group rarely contact one another on a personal level. Because of this lack of intimacy, some members are more active than others. As a whole, it suggests that secondary people in groups could fail to feel connected when partaking in different kinds of activity due to a lack of human interaction.
  • Members of a primary group interact with one another spontaneously, whereas members of a secondary group interact with one another under the control of outside influences.
  • Primary Groups are frequently observed in familial contexts when family members are well acquainted and frequently come from similar backgrounds. Additionally, they are face-to-face with one another. The secondary group, in contrast, is typically encountered in educational and professional settings, such as a class, batch, work team, etc.


In light of everything that has been discussed so far, one can conclude that both primary group and secondary groups are the prominent concepts of sociology. Groups are an element of society, and every individual belongs to at least one group. To have a better grasp of society, one must first learn the behaviors of groups, as this reflects the structure of the society of which they are a part. Everyone must join one group at least for a sense of belongingness or to not feel left out of society. While belonging to a group can provide a sense of community and support, not everyone needs to join a group because individuals can find fulfillment and relationships through other means such as personal hobbies or interests. For example, a hiker who enjoys socializing and connecting with other hikers may discover a sense of belonging and connection with other hikers through social media groups or organized hiking events without necessarily joining a formal hiking club. Introverts, on the other hand, may prefer to find fulfillment through solitary activities such as reading or artistic endeavors.

To improve sales and achieve the profit maximization goal, a company can generate marketing material that establishes a connection with a target audience and appeals to them by knowing the differences between these two types of groups. A healthy balance between the two groups is, therefore, necessary to maintain a high standard of living.


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"Difference Between Primary Group and Secondary Group." Diffzy.com, 2023. Tue. 03 Oct. 2023. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-primary-group-and-secondary-group>.

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