The Nature and Significance of Groups

Donelson R. Forsyth

in The Oxford Handbook of Group Counseling

Published in print August 2011 | ISBN: 9780195394450
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Library of Psychology

The Nature and Significance of Groups


An understanding of group counseling requires an understanding of groups themselves, their basic nature and processes. Given that human beings are a social species and spend their lives in groups rather than alone, an individual-level analysis of adjustment, well-being, and treatment, with its focus on internal, psychological processes, should be supplemented by a group-level analysis. The defining features of a group are relationships linking a substantial number of members, boundaries, interdependence, structure, cohesion, and entitativity (perceived groupness); and groups with more of these features are more influential than other forms of association, such as social networks. The chapter reviews a number of group-level processes that influence members’ adjustment, including loneliness, ostracism, social support, socialization, social identity, and performance, before recommending a synthesis of the individual- and group-level perspectives in a multilevel analysis of human development, adjustment, and potential.

Keywords: individual-level analysis; group-level analysis; cohesion; entitativity; social networks; loneliness; ostracism; social support

Article.  12706 words. 

Subjects: Psychology ; Counselling Psychology

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