Cooley's Primary and Secondary Groups
Sociologist Charles H. Cooley (1963/1909) used the term primary group to describe a small, less specialized group
in which members engage in face-to-face, emotionbased interactions over an extended period of time. We have primary relationships with other individuals in our primary groups-that is. with our significant others, who frequently serve as role models. In contrast. you will recall. a secondary grOlip is a larger. more specialized group in which the members engage in more impersonal. goal-oriented relationships for a limited period of time.. The siu of a secondary group may vary. Twelve students in a graduate seminar may start out as a secondary group but eventually become a primary group as they get to know one another and communicate on a more personal basis. Formal organizations are secondary groups. but they also contain many primary groups within them. For example. how many primary groups do you think there are within the secondary-group setting of your college?