Group formation is influenced by personal, situational, and interpersonal processes. It is largely dependent on the members themselves, as some individuals are more likely to join groups than others do. Situational experiences can push individuals into groups, rather than separating them. Individuals can also discover mutual interaction with one another, an attraction that creates a foundation for group formation. Personality dimensions, for instance, extraversion and agreeableness, are influential determinants of an individual’s willingness to join groups. The extraversion dimension enables individuals to move closer to others rather than away. The agreeableness dimension makes individuals more cooperative, kind, and compassionate, thereby enhancing their chances of joining groups (Forsyth, 2012, p. 101). Group formation can also be influenced by gender differences, where persons from different genders join their respective groups. Social motivation, for instance, the need for affiliation, intimacy, or power can enhance the desire to join groups. Social anxiety and attachment can influence the kind of groups that an individual joins. Since shy individuals have high anxiety levels, they exhibit reluctance in joining groups than other normal people, but can easily establish associations with other shy individuals. Attitudes, experiences, and expectations have been instrumental in the formation of social movements, where individuals have a common outlook on issues.
The formalized relationship that individuals establish with groups is referred to as group affiliation. Individuals also join groups when they face uncertainties or threatening situations. In this case, their main objective is to acquire the information and social support they require to deal with the difficult circumstances. They achieve this through social comparison, where they contrast their personal qualities and outcomes, such as accomplishments and experiences to those of others (Forsyth, 2012, p. 112-113). Social support given to individuals experiencing significant life crises can offer a sense of inclusion to particular groups. An individual can join a group if the group is capable or is expected to offer its members more advantages over remaining alone.
Group Cohesion and Development
Group cohesion refers to the social bonds or forces that establish interlocking interdependencies among group members to enhance solidarity or unity. Apart from attraction bonds, group cohesiveness can result from the shared identity, emotions, and the group’s structure (Forsyth, 2012, p. 135-136). Social cohesion is influenced by interpersonal and group-level attraction. While interpersonal attraction occurs at the individual level, group-level attraction involves all members of the group. Social attraction can also occur at a higher level, where the attraction is depersonalized. Task cohesion is common in task-oriented groups, for instance, work teams that perform as a unit. Cohesion can also be collective, emotional, and even structural. In collective cohesion, the group’s unity is based on their shared identity and sense of belonging. Emotional cohesion originates from positive emotions during interaction with group members. Structural cohesion is group solidarity resulting from the integrity of its structural features, for instance, norms, roles, and relations between members.
Cohesion normally develops in accordance with the group’s stages of development. During the orientation stage when the group is forming, solidarity is usually because the group’s goals are clear, and the group is in consensus. During the conflict or storming stage, disagreements and dissatisfactions can polarize group members, thereby reducing their solidarity. This is followed by the structure development or norming stage, which is characterized by the growth of cohesiveness and unity. The establishment of roles, standards, and relationships during this stage increases trust and communication among members. The performance stage is characterized by increased cohesiveness resulting from cooperation in decision-making and the focus on goal achievement. The adjourning or dissolution stage is characterized by decreasing cohesiveness due to termination of tasks or completion of roles, which can lead to the disintegration of the group or withdrawal of individuals.
Cohesion influences the satisfaction of members with the group and/or their subsequent adjustments to enhance group solidarity. It is also responsible for group dynamics and influence, such as conflict, group restructuring, the attraction of new members, or withdrawal of members, and the eventual disintegration of the group. The degree of cohesiveness is critical in determining the group’s productivity, which is driven by shared interest and attraction among group members.
Group structure refers to the distribution of members across the various roles within the group, and their behavior in performing these roles in accordance with the established norms. It is also comprised of the nature of relationships joining members together in an integrated network, which in turn regulates the member’s interdependencies and enhances the group’s solidarity and durability (Forsyth, 2012, p. 165). Therefore, the group structure is characterized by norms, roles, and inter-member relations.
Norms are the agreed-upon standards that regulate the behaviors of group members by differentiating the acceptable from the unacceptable. While norms can be specific to a particular group, some are widely accepted across groups. Norms develop out of group consensus, where people discuss and formally adopt rules for guiding their behaviors. They are transmitted through internalization, where newcomers continually change to adopt the group’s established traditions. The acceptance of the group’s shared values and ideologies is referred to as group conformity.
The role is the individual’s responsibility as a member of a particular group. Roles structure behavior by determining the part taken by members as they interact. Role differentiation involves defining the specific actions to be performed by group members and their particular ways of interactions as they undertake group activity. Role differentiation can facilitate goal attainment in task-oriented activity, and can significantly reduce role stress, for instance, conflict and ambiguity. The structure is influenced by the group socialization process, which includes a pattern of changes from the time an individual joins a group until the time of withdrawal.
Inter-member relations that define a group structure are social networks that shape status, attraction, and communication processes within a group. They vary with group sizes and are determined the degree of role and status differentiation within the network. Status differentiation determines the degree to which an individual exercises authority over other group members.
Forsyth, D. R. (2012). Group dynamics. 6th Ed. Belmont, Calif: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.