For­mal and in­for­mal groups

Jamaica Gleaner - - YL: FEATURE - Mau­reen Camp­bell teaches at St Hugh’s High School. Send ques­tions and com­ments to kerry-ann.hep­burn@glean­ MAU­REEN CAMP­BELL Con­trib­u­tor



These are or­gan­ised, hi­er­ar­chi­cal groups where struc­ture and roles are de­fined. This is so as it can be fur­ther de­scribed as the de­lib­er­ate and sys­tem­atic group­ing of peo­ple so that goals are bet­ter achieved.


These of­ten emerge from for­mal groups, but may also emerge be­tween neigh­bours and friends. In­for­mal groups are the nat­u­ral and spon­ta­neous group­ing of peo­ple when­ever they work to­gether over a pe­riod of time.


The fol­low­ing are dif­fer­ences be­tween for­mal and in­for­mal groups:

The groups formed by the man­age­ment of the or­gan­i­sa­tion for ac­com­plish­ing a spe­cific task are known as for­mal groups. The groups that are formed by the in­di­vid­u­als with re­gard to their likes and prej­u­dices are known as in­for­mal groups.

The for­mal groups are de­lib­er­ately cre­ated by the or­gan­i­sa­tion, whereas the in­for­mal groups are es­tab­lished vol­un­tar­ily.

The for­mal groups are big in size, as com­pared to an in­for­mal group. More­over, there can be many sub­groups in a sin­gle for­mal group.

The struc­ture of a for­mal group is de­signed in a hi­er­ar­chi­cal man­ner, while the in­for­mal group lacks struc­ture.

In a for­mal group, the po­si­tion of a mem­ber de­fines its im­por­tance in the group, but in an in­for­mal group, ev­ery mem­ber may be as im­por­tant as any other mem­ber.

In a for­mal group, the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the mem­bers is pro­fes­sional; they gather just to ac­com­plish the task al­lot­ted to them. On the other hand, in an in­for­mal group, there is a per­sonal re­la­tion­ship be­tween mem­bers; they share their opin­ions, ex­pe­ri­ences, prob­lems, in­for­ma­tion with each other.

In a for­mal group, the flow of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is re­stricted due to the unity of com­mand. In con­trast to an in­for­mal group, the flow of com­mu­ni­ca­tion stretches in all di­rec­tions, there is no such re­stric­tion.


Sports teams, scout teams, schools, churches, the po­lice force, trade unions, etc.


Boys on a block, a group play­ing domi­noes, kite-fly­ing chil­dren.


It is the char­ac­ter­is­tics of a par­tic­u­lar group of peo­ple, their be­liefs, be­hav­iours, ob­jects used and other char­ac­ter­is­tics com­mon to the mem­bers of a par­tic­u­lar group or so­ci­ety. It may be fur­ther de­fined by ev­ery­thing from lan­guage, re­li­gion, cui­sine, so­cial habits, to mu­sic and arts. In the Caribbean, the cul­ture is in­flu­enced by the many groups of peo­ple that now make up the pop­u­la­tion of the coun­tries, cre­at­ing cul­tural di­ver­sity.


These are groups formed by choice to ful­fil or pro­vide some ser­vice in the com­mu­nity or sup­port a wor­thy cause. The Red Cross is a very good ex­am­ple; also the Ki­wa­nis Club.


The mem­bers of this group are forced to be­come mem­bers. They have no other al­ter­na­tive or they may be pun­ished for not be­com­ing mem­bers. An ex­am­ple in­cludes mil­i­tary en­list­ment be­tween cer­tain ages.


A cus­tom, prac­tice, re­la­tion­ship, or be­havioural pat­tern of im­por­tance in the life of a com­mu­nity or so­ci­ety. Ex­am­ples are the in­sti­tu­tions of mar­riage and the fam­ily.

It is also an es­tab­lished or­gan­i­sa­tion or foun­da­tion, espe­cially one ded­i­cated to ed­u­ca­tion, pub­lic ser­vice or cul­ture.


This is the en­force­ment of the rules and stan­dards of so­ci­ety that re­strict in­di­vid­ual ac­tion through the in­cul­ca­tion of pre­dictable sanc­tions, the im­po­si­tion of for­malised means by law or by so­cial pres­sure.


These are re­ferred to as ‘cus­toms’. They are stan­dards of be­hav­iour that are so­cially ap­proved but not mo­rally sig­nif­i­cant. They are norms for ev­ery­day be­hav­iour that peo­ple fol­low for the sake of tra­di­tion or con­ve­nience. Break­ing a folk­way does not usu­ally have se­ri­ous con­se­quences. Cul­tural forms of dress or food habits are ex­am­ples of folkways.


Norms are the spe­cific cul­tural ex­pec­ta­tions for how to be­have in a given sit­u­a­tion. They are the agreed-upon ex­pec­ta­tions and rules by which the mem­bers of a cul­ture be­have. Norms vary from cul­ture to cul­ture, as some things that are con­sid­ered norms in one cul­ture may not be in an­other cul­ture.


Mores are strict norms that con­trol moral and eth­i­cal be­hav­iour. Mores are norms based on def­i­ni­tions of right and wrong. Un­like folkways, mores are mo­rally sig­nif­i­cant. Peo­ple feel strongly about them and vi­o­lat­ing them typ­i­cally re­sults in dis­ap­proval.


Laws are norms that are for­mally writ­ten down and en­forced by an of­fi­cial law-en­force­ment agency. Driv­ing while drunk, theft, mur­der, and tres­pass­ing are all ex­am­ples of laws in Caribbean. If vi­o­lated, the per­son vi­o­lat­ing the law pays a fine or goes to jail.


So­cial Stud­ies Essen­tials (New Edi­tion), Mervyn Sandy and Stephen­son Grayson


1. Dis­cuss three ma­jor dif­fer­ences be­tween for­mal and in­for­mal groups.

2. State two rea­sons why for­mal and in­for­mal groups are nec­es­sary in a so­ci­ety.

3. Dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween norms and mores, and vol­un­tary and in­vol­un­tary groups, giv­ing ex­am­ples.

“A good or­gan­i­sa­tion should have a com­bi­na­tion of both the for­mal and the in­for­mal.” -P.J. Phillip

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