An understanding of the modern industrial society requires an understanding of the secondary groups. The social groups other than those of primary groups may be termed as secondary groups. They are a residual category. They are often called special interest groups.Maclver and Page refers to them as great associations. They are of the opinion that secondary groups have become almost inevitable today. Their appearance is mainly due to the growing cultural complexity. Primary groups are found predominantly in societies where life is relatively simple. With the expansion in population and territory of a society however interests become diversified and other types of relationships which can be called secondary or impersonal become necessary. Interests become differentiated. The services of experts are required. The new range of the interests demands a complex organization. Especially selected persons act on behalf of all and hence arises a hierarchy of officials called bureaucracy. These features characterize the rise of the modern state, the great corporation, the factory, the labor union, a university or a nationwide political party and so on. These are secondary groups.Ogburn and Nimkoff defines secondary groups as groups which provide experience lacking in intimacy. Frank D. Watson writes that the secondary group is larger and more formal ,is specialized and direct in its contacts and relies more for unity and continuance upon the stability of its social organization than does the primary group.
Characteristics of secondary group:
Dominance of secondary relations: Secondary groups are characterized by indirect, impersonal, contractual and non-inclusive relations. Relations are indirect because secondary groups are bigger in size and members may not stay together. Relations are contractual in the sense they are oriented towards certain interests
Largeness of the size: Secondary groups are relatively larger in size. City, nation, political parties, trade unions and corporations, international associations are bigger in size. They may have thousands and lakhs of members. There may not be any limit to the membership in the case of some secondary groups.
Membership: Membership in the case of secondary groups is mainly voluntary. Individuals are at liberty to join or to go away from the groups. However there are some secondary groups like the state whose membership is almost involuntary.
No physical basis: Secondary groups are not characterized by physical proximity. Many secondary groups are not limited to any definite area. There are some secondary groups like the Rotary Club and Lions Club which are international in character. The members of such groups are scattered over a vast area.
Specific ends or interest: Secondary groups are formed for the realization of some specific interests or ends. They are called special interest groups. Members are interested in the groups because they have specific ends to aim at. Indirect communication: Contacts and communications in the case of secondary groups are mostly indirect. Mass media of communication such as radio, telephone, television, newspaper, movies, magazines and post and telegraph are resorted to by the members to have communication.
Communication may not be quick and effective even. Impersonal nature of social relationships in secondary groups is both the cause and the effect of indirect communication.
Nature of group control: Informal means of social control are less effective in regulating the relations of members. Moral control is only secondary. Formal means of social control such as law, legislation, police, court etc are made of to control the behavior of members. The behavior of the people is largely influenced and controlled by public opinion, propaganda, rule of law and political ideologies. Group structure: The secondary group has a formal structure. A formal authority is set up with designated powers and a clear-cut division of labor in which the function of each is specified in relation to the function of all. Secondary groups are mostly organized groups. Different statuses and roles that the members assume are specified. Distinctions based on caste, colour, religion, class, language etc are less rigid and there is greater tolerance towards other people or groups.
Limited influence on personality: Secondary groups are specialized in character. People involvement in them is also of limited significance.Members's attachment to them is also very much limited. Further people spend most of their time in primary groups than in secondary groups. Hence secondary groups have very limited influence on the personality of the members.