What is Group Cohesion?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Group cohesion may be strong among individuals who share characteristics like ethnicity or religion.
Group cohesion may be strong among individuals who share characteristics like ethnicity or religion.

Group cohesion is a phenomenon that determines how well a group holds together. When cohesion is strong, a group will remain stable, but when it is weak, the group may fall apart. The study of group cohesion is a topic of interest among social psychologists and many others, including people who are concerned with making large organizations work effectively. Understanding this phenomenon can be key to pulling together a team, a workplace, or a similar group of people.

Competition with a rival stimulates group cohesion.
Competition with a rival stimulates group cohesion.

Some of the factors in how a group holds together are social. There are a number of things that can occur within a group and its members that encourage people to stay in the group and to stay focused on group goals. Others are environmental, caused by external factors that make staying together as a group more or less appealing.

In many cases, the smaller a group is, the better the cohesion. The more stable a group is in terms of member demographics, the better the cohesion as well. People who share characteristics like gender, race, sex, religion, and so forth will typically forge stronger connections in a group, while a group of diverse individuals may have difficulty staying together. Another factor is group success, with people having an incentive to stay in a group that is doing well, with elitism also playing a role.

Elite organizations foster a culture of cohesion among their members.
Elite organizations foster a culture of cohesion among their members.

The famous quote attributed to several different people goes “I would not join any club that would have someone like me as a member.” This holds true for group cohesion as well; the harder it is to get in to a group, the more incentive people have to stay. In a simple example, students at an elite university experience a form of cohesion because they share many characteristics, including admission into an elite educational institution. Task cohesion is another factor; if a group has a task to focus on which requires collective effort, it will have an easier time staying together. A famous example of this is a military mission.

A group of girlfriends.
A group of girlfriends.

There may also be rewards and punishments involved. People could be rewarded for being in a group with benefits that make the group attractive to be in, or they could face punishment for leaving the group, which encourages them to stay. The key external factor, on the other hand, is competition from other groups. A swim team may fall apart if it never has any meets, but as soon as a rival team appears, group cohesion will often increase radically, because members have an incentive to stay in the group and to work together to achieve a common goal: the defeat of the rival.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

Oceana

@StarJo – Group psychology is funny like that. When something suddenly comes along to question the talent or authenticity of the group, everyone feels the need to defend what was previously coming unglued.

I also believe that groups of people who go through something traumatic together have a greater cohesion rate than those who don't. Many groups are founded after people in a community go through something tragic, like a tornado or a shooting. These people have something in common, and it is something that has affected them so deeply that they may never get over it.

In this case, the group sticks together for mutual support. They all share an understanding of what happened, and this isn't something that anyone who hasn't lived through the tragedy can say.

StarJo

I definitely agree that competition leads to group cohesiveness. I know this because the dance group I joined in high school was on the verge of falling apart until a rival group started up and challenged us.

We were suddenly determined to keep our good name, and we started working harder than ever before on our routines. We practiced so much, and we all had a sense of loyalty and belonging to the group.

kylee07drg

If a group has good communication when it forms, this usually means it has a better chance of lasting. I have been in several music groups, and the ones that lasted longest were the ones that had a common goal in mind.

The bands in which a few members wanted success at the cost of family, jobs, and friends were the ones that fell apart. It is really difficult for all members to give up everything for something that may not even happen.

The groups that stuck were the ones in which everyone just wanted to play for fun and for a little extra money. We all talked before we formed, and none of us wanted to travel far and be away from family or our jobs.

orangey03

Groups put together by a boss in a workplace have no choice but to stay together. This doesn't mean that things will go smoothly, but it does mean that every person in the group knows that leaving is not an option, so the cohesion is strong.

anon305866

It is believed that differences add flavor to social cohesion once the group members are willing to see the greater good out of diversity. This can create different and more creative means of achieving the set goals of the group.

Armas1313

@ShadowGenius

Nevertheless, if a group does not hold to a common goal it will not function. Diversity is good, but when people do not have a common desire or plan, there is really no purpose in being in the same group or working together.

ShadowGenius

While people with similar appearance, gender, and beliefs, may seem to hold together more easily, these are not the types of groups which foster growth. Growth and new life is attained by a conscious choice to work toward mutuality in the midst of stark difference. This is redemption in action. The most fundamental of such belabored cohesion would be marriage. When a man and women (diverse people) come together, they create new life, and a group of different people who are nevertheless bound together by familial ties. This is group cohesion at its most basic form, and should help us to recognize the vital importance of variety in any group.

TrogJoe19

There are some unique axioms for group cohesion which tend to transcend diverse cultural and demographic differences. Probably the biggest of these would be a common belief in a central truth, which would override all other topics of debate as a general life goal. This is the gospel, the message of Christ, which brings people together from all backgrounds and walks of life in a beautiful mosaic of unity in diversity.

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    • Group cohesion may be strong among individuals who share characteristics like ethnicity or religion.
      By: William Murphy
      Group cohesion may be strong among individuals who share characteristics like ethnicity or religion.
    • Competition with a rival stimulates group cohesion.
      By: Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office
      Competition with a rival stimulates group cohesion.
    • Elite organizations foster a culture of cohesion among their members.
      By: The National Infantry Museum and Soldier Center
      Elite organizations foster a culture of cohesion among their members.
    • A group of girlfriends.
      By: laszlolorik
      A group of girlfriends.
    • Task cohesion occurs when a group has a task to focus on that requires collective effort.
      By: opolja
      Task cohesion occurs when a group has a task to focus on that requires collective effort.