Chapter #3

Social Structure and Group


Social Structure

Social structure refers to the way in which a society is organized into predictable relationships.

A social structure consists of a network of lasting, orderly relationships among people.


Status- The manner in which sociologists describe an individual’s position within a large group or society and the relation of that person to others in the group.

Every member of a group has a status, and everyone belongs to many different groups.

Three Statuses (or stati. . .I think)

Ascribed Status- Assigned to a person by society without regard for the individual’s talents or abilities.

Achieved Status- Achieved through talents, actions, efforts, activities, and accomplishments.

Master Status- That status that plays a major role in shaping a person’s life. (Senior or age;

Soccer Player, Good Student; for adults parenthood or marital status, or even employment).


Roles- The expected behavior that a status carries with it.

We learn how to perform roles by observing and interacting with others who already understand them.

Expectations and Performance

Role expectations- Behaviors expected of someone in a particular role.

Determined by the society and are similar within a culture.

Role performance- In reality how our role expectations are carried out.

Know your roles. . . jabroni

Reciprocal roles- Roles that are part of the interaction between related statuses.

Example: You may be a student in a teacher’s class and an athlete on that coaches soccer team

Role Strain- When conflicting demands are built into a role. (School board member)

Role Conflict- When incompatible expectations arise from 2 or more statuses held by the same person. (Athlete and student)

Groups and Organizations


Any number of people with similar norms, values, and expectations who regularly interact.

Groups must be small enough for members to interact regularly.

Dyads and Triads

Dyad- Simplest of all social groups, a two-member group.

A married couple (or some musical duos) are examples.

Allow for close relationships.

Group is destroyed if one member leaves.


A three member group.

Stays intact if a member leaves.

Characteristics of Groups

Structured interaction- All groups must have some type of interactions.


Group of people in a waiting room.

Office workers use of e-mail.

More characteristics of a group

Share common goals.


Sports team that practices, works out, and cooperate with a goal of winning (I mean, we hope)

Last group characteristic

Common Identity- Members of a group share a sense of belonging that encourages a common identity.

Example: College students who left families for the first time and join a sorority or fraternity.


Sociogram- A diagram that shows relationship patterns among groups.

How is what’s below an example?

How do Groups Work?

Decision Making Process

How are decisions made within a group?

Group Vote (majority rules)

Leaders choose

Leadership in Groups

Most leaders are leaders because they are the best liked or have the best ideas

Normally once someone is a leader, they become one of three different types…

Authoritarian Leaders

Value efficiency and time-saving techniques

They delegate

Steve Jobs

Democratic Leaders

Like to forge an agreement within a group

Generally not as efficient as authoritarian leaders.

Laissez-faire Leaders

Hands off approach to leading.

Provides little guidance and direction.

Types of Groups

Primary Group

Face to face association with cooperation among group.

People usually identify closely with primary groups such as family, close friends or business partners.

Relationships normally last a long time.

Secondary Groups

Formal, impersonal groups in which there is little social interaction or mutual understanding.

Social relationships are generally superficial.

These groups can develop into primary groups over time.


Any group to which people feel they belong.

“We won the game.” or “We went on vacation.”

An in-group necessitates an out-group.

Fans of ANY sports team

Reference Group

A group that another group uses to evaluate themselves.

Play major roles in shaping opinions of ourselves.

Income and wealth are tied into this

How far your salary goes here.


Organization s

Bureaucracy. . . better yet . . . Red


Formal Organizations

When a secondary group becomes large and complex. They are often created to achieve specific goals.

Voluntary Organizations

Youth sports teams, hobby clubs and charitable organizations.


Large, hierarchical organizations.

Most large companies and modern governments are bureaucracies.

Set up to achieve specific goals

All members have assigned tasks that are narrowly defined.

Formal characteristics of a


Hierarchical chain of command

Clear division of labor (Specialized jobs)

Clearly written, well-established rules

Clearly defined set of goals

Merit-based hiring and promotion (no nepotism)


Job performance is judged by productivity.

One of the first sociologist to think about the concept of bureaucracy

Thought it was a sensible way for businesses and government to meet their objectives.

Max Weber

Advantages of a bureaucracy

Best way to organize to achieve large scale goals.

Clearly define job responsibilities and goals

Organization can go on if someone leaves

The Peter Principle

In a hierarchy, every employee tends to rise to his or her level of incompetence.

This results in people working at a level that they are not competent at.

Problems with Bureaucracies

Workers lose sight of purpose due to following rituals instead of serving

One worker does not know what the next one is doing, no cross-training.

One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing

Social Interaction

Social Interaction

The way in which people respond to one another.

Symbolic Interactionists emphasize the influence that particular situations have on social behavior.

For example, when two people meet, they are constantly evaluating each other’s behavior.

Forms of Social Interaction







Give and take communication

A greeting, taking turns in conversations

Relationships can be built and maintained

An uneven exchange can make one party “give up” on another


Interaction where 2 groups oppose one another

Sporting events, college scholarships, winning customers

Group unity develops when successful

Lack of cooperation can produce dis-trust


Groups attempt to control each other by force

Fights between gangs, wars, legal disputes

Cooperation within a group during conflict can strengthen a winning group

Chaos and suffering can result from conflict.


Groups join forces to reach a common goal

Workers building a house, 9/11 reaction by citizens

Jobs get done, rewards are shared

Lack of personal achievement may bother some people.


Cooperation and conflict are balanced, negotiation develops

Worker strikes and labor negotiations

A difficult goal may be achieved and conflict ends

This can be very difficult to achieve.

Social Network

A series of social relationships that link a person to others and, as a result, indirectly to still more people.

Networking is a good example, though someone without good connections can see this as unfair.