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Group Work Practice
Group Dynamics
Chapter 3
Group Dynamics
• One of the worker’s most important tasks is
to help groups develop dynamics that
promote the satisfaction of members’
socioemotional needs while facilitating the
accomplishment of group tasks.
Group Dynamics
• The forces operating within a group that affect
how group members relate to and interact with
one another
• Relates to:
• Communication and interaction patterns
• Cohesion
• Social control mechanisms, that is, norms, roles
and status
• Group Culture
Communication and interaction patterns
Verbal and non verbal communications are
the components of social interaction
Communication entails
1. the encoding of a person’s perceptions,
thoughts and feelings into language and other
2. The transmission of these symbols or language
3. The decoding of the transmission by another
Communication as a Process
The first step in understanding and intervening in
interaction patterns is for the worker to be aware
that when ever people are together in a group, they
are communicating
Workers who are aware that group members
communicate for many reasons can observe, assess
and understand communication and interaction
Noise and other distortions inside or outside the
meeting room can interfere with effective
Interaction Patterns
• A variety of interaction patterns have been
identified in social work literature
• Maypole
• Round Robin
• Free floating
• These focus on increased social interaction,
group morale, member commitment to group
goals and innovative decision making
Group Cohesion
• Group cohesion is the result of all forces acting on
members to remain in a group
• The need for affiliation, recognition and security
• The resources and prestige available through
group participation
• Expectations of the beneficial and detrimental
consequences of the group
• The comparison of the group with other group
Social Control Dynamics
• Social control is the term used to describe the
processes by which the group as a whole
gains sufficient compliance and conformity
from its members to enable it to function in
an orderly manner
• It involves and is related to
• Group Norms
• Group Member and Leader Roles
• Group Member and Leader Status
What Are Norms?
• Consensual and often implicit standards that
describe what behaviors should and should
not be performed in a given context.
describe how most members act, feel, and think
shared among group members, rather than personal,
idiosyncratic beliefs
Injunctive (or
define which behaviors are "bad" or "wrong" and which
are "good" or "acceptable"
set the standards for expected behaviors
identify behaviors that should not be performed
describe the unwritten rules of conduct in the group
often so taken for granted members follow them
Self-generating emerge as members reach a consensus through reciprocal
once they develop, resistant to change and passed from
current members to new members
Development of Norms
• Sherif’s studies of the development of norms in
• Convergence in actions, thoughts, and emotions
occurs over time
Sherif's (1936) autokinetic effect studies
Judged distance a dot of light moved in a darkened room
It moved about
3.5 inches
Autokinetic effect: the stationary dot of light will seem to
Looks like 1 inch
I’d say 2 inches
7.5 inches
What if people make their judgments with others, and state
estimates aloud?
Average distance
Person A
Person B
Person C
Session 1
Session 2
Session 3
Initially, they differ; but over trials, they converge
TAKE HOME MESSAGE: Guard against group member conformity
Group Culture
• Group culture refers to values, beliefs,
customs and traditions held in common by
Stages of Group Development
• Often a cyclical movement of group members from
invested in the task to emotionally displaced from the task
part of the group to autonomous
defended to open
isolated to enmeshed
• Open-membership groups that are able to move
beyond a beginning level of development are those
that have a membership change less frequently than
every other meeting and those with less than a 50
percent change in membership