Social Psychology: An Analysis of Social Behavior

Chapter 12: Personality and Further Primary Group Contacts

Kimball Young

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In Chapter II we described the sociological features of primary and secondary groups and the differences between in-groups and out-groups, and in Chapter XI we treated the relation of the family and the play-group to the rise of the personality. We shall now discuss the effects on the person of further primary group participation.

A. The Neighborhood.

Aside from the family and play-group the neighborhood is one of the first groups to which the child is oriented. In the family the stimulus-response relations are largely those of linear kind— the father or mother commanding and the child obeying or revolting from authority. In the playgroup, on the other hand, the child meets those more or less of his own age and comes to develop certain types of circular response in which he meets his fellows on a much more natural, spontaneous level. It is in the neighborhood, however, that the child first comes into contact with adults outside his own family. Often one of the first contacts of the child with the neighborhood is made through his playmates. Mary is playing with Jean in the latter's yard. A slight difference of opinion arises between them when Mary attempts to recover a toy which she considers her own. To this Jean objects and there is vigorous talk and even some physical mauling back and forth. At this juncture Jean's mother appears at the window and tells Jean to give up the toy, or possibly scolds Mary for hitting at Jean. The adult thus injects herself into the social interaction of Mary and Jean, producing effects on both children. To Jean, supposing the second case, the .mother now stands as her protector against other children, and when dealing with other children she may quickly develop a habit of dependency on her mother. Thereafter on the slightest provocation when her own wishes are thwarted, she has recourse to her mother to get what she can not

(271) secure herself. This merely enhances and extends the range of manipulating other adults, especially of her own family, for the satisfaction of her ego or self-assertive trends toward persons not of her family. The method of meeting a crisis by invoking the aid of stronger persons in authority, not only in family situations, but in all life situations, may thus become deep-seated in the child. In turn, this furnishes a basis for other habits superimposed on that of crying out for authority to secure what are considered one's rights, often without reference to the merits of the situation as such. In Mary's case, Jean's mother becomes an object of dislike. She may discontinue playing with Jean. She may devise indirect ways to offset Jean's ally, or she may, in fact, appeal to her own mother for support, in which case a fourth member is added to the social configuration. This will again change the whole situation. The two mothers may discuss, sometimes in the very presence of the two children, the respective merits of the two families. Differences may be removed or enlarged as the two adults come into social contact.

This interference of adults in children's lives suggests another aspect of the child's induction into the neighborhood. This is the preparation through family gossip of the child's attitudes and ideas about neighbors before the child has had any or but slight contact with them. Mrs. Smith does not wear her clothes just right. She permits her children too much liberty and has no control over them. She really does not fit into our social circle so well. Through the expression of prejudices of the parents or other members of the family, the child is given a direction to his own contact with the outsiders. The in-group versus out-group relations are already laid down for the child, and he has little opportunity to work out his social interrelations with the neighbors apart from this pattern. In particular societies a definite technique of handling relations with neighbors and acquaintances, may grow up.

Alice J. was brought up in a New England town in which the custom of entertainment was built upon a pattern of one social obligation neatly balanced against another. If Mrs. X invited the family of Alice to tea, then the J family must reciprocate with some such social invitation. There were never any spontaneous relations of young people which were not constantly being interfered with by older people in terms of the conventions of this balanced sort. This carried over until Alice was grown and had been away to college. On one occasion a young man was passing through the town when Alice and a college friend were spending a vacation there. Alice invited this young man to

( 272) tea and the first question the mother asked her twenty-five year old daughter was, "Have his people had you to their house?" When informed that the girl knew the boy in college and had never seen his people, the mother was pretty dubious as to whether her daughter should have him in to tea or not.

Again, neighbors show a certain social solidarity which the child picks up. This is seen when neighborhoods begin to alter their social complexion. The arrival of a strange family in a neighborhood may be the occasion for a good deal of comment by the other families. The children pick up the attitudes of their parents. Where do the new arrivals come from? What are their social antecedents? Are they nice people? The older residents feel keenly the effects of this on property values, on social prestige, and on their children:

Old Mrs. Garfinckle complains that the foreign servants one gets nowadays don't know how to keep their place . . . . On another porch, Mrs. Moller and Mrs. Sullivan exchange confidences about their children. "I don't know what I am going to do about George," says Mrs. Moller. "I had no idea we had so many niggers in this part of the town until the other day I saw them all trooping out of the high school. And as for Mr. Hall's Academy, they say that he has more Jews than Christians!" Mrs. Sullivan's problem is even more acute; here she had got herself a nice home in one of the best streets, and her boys run down to the Old Town playground almost every afternoon to play with their "hunky" and "dago" schoolmates. "You should hear the language they bring home!" [1]

The development of restricted residential areas in terms of kind of house, amount of ground, and the like, common in our growing cities, is a reflection of the attempt to retain the social solidarity of the older neighborhood. Neighbors, then, furnish a group toward which the growing child orients himself and the effects of this contact upon personality may be difficult to measure, but certainly must be considered among the formative factors in the life history of the individual.

Today the neighborhood in the sense of a primary group is breaking down. People live in apartment houses where the only thing they have in common with other tenants is the capacity to pay rent. Naturally the child in such circumstances gets an entirely different notion of people living about him than does the child in the village or town neighborhood where people in one's vicinity have all sorts of congenial relations with

( 273) one another. This change in its most extreme form is seen in the occupants of apartment hotels. Here the contacts are superficial and temporary. A certain aloofness to others develops. Moreover, the fact that one may be waited on by willing bellboys and chamber maids and that all these relations depend largely on money makes for a different life-organization. A young woman who was brought up in a hotel tells of the lack of intimate friendships in her mobile existence. Even when she became acquainted with other children, the companionships were brief.

So, even from the time I was a very little child, I had a certain attitude of aloofness toward my fellow beings. Human relations in my world were so impermanent; one made a friendship for a day or two and it was over. The obvious moral of this was, what was the use of making friendships at all?

As I look back over my life, it seems to me like a checkerboard— little patches, definitely divided from other patches, and having no relation to each other except as they filled up the larger square on which the game of my life was played . . . .

This being so, it is not strange that my childhood is not peopled with definite memories as other people's lives seem to be. There was such a kaleidoscopic combination of faces that very few stand out. I remember places and conditions and sometimes even servants more definitely than most people I met.

This writer points to the lack of sense of personal responsibility which hotel life develops. Moreover, there are no roots in group life. Hotel contacts are of the touch-and-go variety, but never eventuate in any permanence. The deep desire for participation in group activity is evident when she remarks:

The hotel, after all, is no integral part of the life of any community. It is a more or less convenient place for strangers to live in . . . .

If I ever marry, which I doubt I shall do, I shall never live again in a hotel. I would rather live in a home of my own, in any little, tiny country village, and be part of the community, have my little mite in the general life and have my children have theirs, than live in the most splendid hotel that was ever built. [2]

This statement represents in a way what the complete breakdown of a neighborhood and a home life may mean to a person. There is a kind of Sophistication, a manner of social interaction which stands in marked contrast with the free and easy association of children and adults in the old-fashioned, but now rather dispersed neighborhood of the village and town.

(274) Above all else there is little continuity to this type of life. Thus modern division of labor and rapid communication have produced changes in the situations to which children are exposed, and these situations, in turn, determine largely the direction of life-organization. What this may mean ultimately when the older type of neighborhood disappears, it is difficult to say. Certainly where the child has no intimate neighborhood contacts his relations with other people may be very different from those of a child who has been conditioned to the give-and-take relations of neighborliness.

B. Other Primary Group Contacts.

Growing out of the playtime activities of children, there arise two groups which must be considered in some detail. One of these is what we shall call the congeniality group, and the other is the gang. The latter has received a good deal of recent attention in sociological and psychological literature, but not much systematic work has been done with the former. Both of these groups, it may be said, represent somewhat transitional stages between the primary and the secondary group organizations, and are of definite importance in the child's development.

1. The Congeniality Group.— This term refers to those face-to-face associations which are built upon common interest and similarity in disposition, certain kindred tastes, and an agreeable and harmonious reaction to common purposes. They are determined in large measure by contiguity in play or work. These groups are marked by a minimum of formal organization, and although they may persist over a relatively long period, their continuity is largely affected by the proximity of individuals and the persistence of these common interests among the members. The dominant concern seems to be that of recreation and play rather than economic, political, or religious practices, although these may in some cases cut across the congenial group. Often membership in some more formalized organization gives the setting for the formation of the smaller face-to-face clique within this larger matrix. Congeniality groups usually arise from the playground, or from school or church affiliations of more formal nature, but there is more or less unconscious banding together of children of similar age and social status. These groups also run over into adolescence. They certainly appear in adulthood where relative age fades into inconsequence as compared with congeniality in point of view and desire for intimate face-to-face contact. The congeniality group, however, should be distin-

(275) -guished from the companionship of two individuals, which also appears early in the play period and runs on through life. These closer friendships are important too, but we are here considering groups involving three or more members. On the other hand, membership in the congeniality group naturally limits itself to close face-to-face associations. It is the sort of association in which all can foregather around a table at a meal, or sit about in such proximity that the shift of conversation can be made rapidly from person to person, or in which the entire group can participate in a conversation or task more or less at the same time.

The congeniality group should be sharply distinguished from the institutionalized groups sponsored by the Y.M.C.A. or Y.W.C.A., Boy Scouts, Campfire Girls, and like organizations. The congenial grouping, true enough, often arises within these larger associations. It gives evidence of the spontaneity of this type of relationship within many larger organized bodies. A good number of examples of congenial groups reported by students mention the fact that they began in dormitories, in various young people's organizations, or even in college fraternities.

The following example from adult life reveals the social function of such association even where varied social contacts of other sorts are at hand:

Three members of a college faculty of a mid-western institution were lunching together. Their conversation drifted to a discussion of the lack of opportunity to talk and discuss matters which were near their interests but outside the scope of the usual college club or student-faculty organization. "Some place where you can say what you well please and not be bothered," as one put it. A few other congenial persons were suggested and talked to and shortly afterward a group of seven met for an evening. The members were from the fields of journalism, history, economics, advertising, English and psychology. Because of a certain full routine, meetings were predetermined for every fortnight. There was usually something in the way of a talk or paper by one member which was closely related to his work. This paper, however, was not the most important part of the meetings by any means. Usually the group foregathered around eight o'clock and there was always at least an hour of gossip about university affairs, interspersed now and then with amusing and occasionally Rabelaisian stories. There was much banter and often everyone was talking and laughing at once. Smoke grew every hour bluer and bluer. There was a sense of comfort and security. Everyone said what he wished about persons ranging from the janitors and the heads of departments to the blasé daughters of prominent bankers and members of the board of regents. Even the president at times came in for consideration.


After the saturation point of gossip had been reached, the paper was called for by someone or other. While the other members settled back in comfort, one member delivered himself on any topic from one end of the humanities and social sciences to the other. At the end of the talk, discussion broke loose. There was much debate, much mild chaffing, but all in good humor. One man once remarked that he had never seen any group so divergent in point of view and habits, and yet so congenial and able "to stand punishment from one another."

Talk from this point on drifted everywhere and nowhere. Finally about eleven, refreshments were served. There were no women allowed at any-time. If the host were married, the maid or dutiful housewife prepared luncheon and left the apartment to the men for the evening. The whole tone was distinctly unrestrained, masculine and one of good fellowship. Matters of intimate professional experience were unburdened with no fear that the tale would be carried further. Radical views on all sorts of topics might be expressed with no apprehension that they might be heralded next morning in the college newspaper. No name was attached to the group at first although an abbreviation was given it later— growing out of a chance witty remark by one of the members and the abbreviation stuck. There was no president because no one presided, no treasurer for they were no dues, no secretary because there were no minutes Someone was more or less spontaneously designated by the others to make a note of order of meeting places and topics, but on several occasions debate ensued because two or even three had made notes of the matter to find themselves in slight disagreement— disagreements always settled in good humor.

New members were added as two of the original group left the institution. Later others left and after five years the group has become much tamer in spirit and much less ribald in speech, but it still offers to its seven or eight members a place where they can feel free and easy in the presence of their fellows and thus escape the felt pressure of the conventions of a small town and of a mid-western university.

The congeniality group thus furnishes an intimate face-to-face association not based on kinship as with a family, or on geographical contiguity as the playground, neighborhood, or village. It is related to common interest, but usually has a distinctly recreational aspect. It often arises quite spontaneously as its members discover common bonds of sympathy, ideas, and attitude. Psychologically it is important in furnishing release from inhibitions produced by the folkways and conventions of the groups out of which it arises. It thus cuts across the institutionalized patterns of behavior and throws one back upon his freer more spontaneous self. It is matched only by the companionship or comradeship groups of two persons to be noted below.


2. The Gang.— A second group which appears on the horizon during pre-adolescence and adolescence is the gang. At least in origin the gang has much in common with the congeniality group, but the two are easily to be distinguished. The gang becomes more formalized; it is likely to construct and perpetuate legends and codes, and in most cases it bespeaks much more distinctly a conflict type of behavior as seen in the in-group versus out-group relations, which arises out of crises. Unlike the congeniality group, the literature on the gang is extensive. The books of Puffer, Furfey, and Thrasher, as well as the more popular accounts such as Asbury's The Gangs of New York, are well-known. An attempt even to summarize this extensive literature would carry us beyond our purpose. We need only indicate some of the more outstanding aspects of gang life as it affects the personality of the growing boy or girl. The more strictly sociological aspects of the matter must be sought elsewhere. Nowhere is the close correlation between culture pattern, social interaction, and individual shown more clearly than in the life of the gang. The gang really represents an important step in socialization, even though, as in the case of criminal gangs, some of its results may be disastrous from the angle of the larger community.

The gang age according to Puffer, ranges from ten to sixteen, though one will find both younger and older boys in gangs. The exact functional delimitation of the gang is difficult at present, for many gangs operate athletic clubs composed of the boys themselves, while others, in contrast tend to criminal purposes. Moreover, the gang must be thought of as different from the carefully organized boys' clubs sponsored by adults. Thrasher defines the gang as follows:

The gang is an interstitial group originally formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict. It is characterized by the following types of behavior: meeting face to face, milling, movement through space as a unit, conflict and planning. The result of this collective behavior is the development of tradition, unreflective internal structure, esprit de corps, solidarity, morale, group awareness, and attachment to a local territory [3]


The following narrative presents correctly certain gang activities:

The neighborhood was A Street, between B and C Avenues. The street itself was a little better than the average street in that neighborhood. Down below by the river the "goopher gang" operated. A few blocks running from D Street to E Street was the region then known as "Hell's Kitchen." Several other gangs, with less euphonious names but equally active, also operated. The kids in the street naturally enough formed gangs or groups and played marbles together, during most of our public school days. There were some attempts at ball playing, most of a "hit or miss" character, with little organization. On Hallowe'en and Election nights, however, the youngsters of the Street usually assembled in full force and raised as much Hell as they possibly could. On those nights, particularly on Election Night, it was the custom of the street gangs to descend on other street gangs and swipe their kindling for the Election Night bonfire, and anything else that was movable was also brought along more .or less incidentally. The raiding parties, however, were quite an accepted, open and above-board custom in which each kid participated if he could get away from his mother's apron strings. Needless to say in these raids fist fights ensued and fists were very frequently reinforced with sticks and stones and bottles. The police occasionally landed in on the middle of one of these fights— unfortunately. Unfortunately I say because I am quite convinced that the slight, punishment meted out in some cases produced a contempt for the police that did more harm than good and in other cases where the youngsters were sent to reform schools, they were reformed into a pretty hard-boiled bunch.

This custom of Election Day was occasionally repeated throughout the year, particularly in the winter time when the snow was on the ground and snow fights inevitably ensued in the course of which windows were broken and the good people of the neighborhood complained to the police, with the result that the police once again became active and again did more harm than good.

The one fight that might very easily have had very serious consequences, was a little different from either of these others. It was in the spring. I remember that the marble season was on and that one of the gangs from the streets below C Avenue, came up on a raiding expedition. Just what precipitated this I hardly know. They marched up the block announcing their coming. Nobody paid very much attention to them until they got to a marble game which was in session with eight or ten kids playing. There was a dive for the marbles on the ground and an attempt to take from those who had been participating in the game the marbles that were in their possession. A slight fight ensued in which most of the A Street kids broke loose and ran up the block `With the gang in pursuit. The result was that the gang was soon on another marble game and stopped long enough to clean it up. By that time the three or four other games in the street down the block had been warned and there was a general retreat down the block to B Avenue until A Street had assembled at least 20 or 25 youngsters, most of them 10 to 14 years of age.


Then, a stand was made at a grocery store about half way down the block, potatoes being the chief weapons, with the result that the grocer and his assistant rushed out and fortunately for us were thoroughly "rocked" by the opposing gang. The result was that the grocer and his assistant picked up clubs and were after the gang and with the aid of our kids were highly successful. In the meantime scouts were dispatched along G, H, and I Streets, B and C Avenues, issuing warnings that the X Avenues were on a rampage. The final result was that somewhere between 75 and 100 kids were assembled, the age now ranging up to 16, and with these reinforcements we proceeded to invade the territory below C Avenue, partially to recuperate our marbles but more to show off. We marched gaily through the streets, the other gang having withdrawn entirely, then came back again. The G and I Street gangs then dispersed and A Street and B and C Avenue groups returned to their normal condition with the exception that some of the older boys of the block came drifting along and having heard what had happened began to plan revenge.

Their chance came sooner than was expected. The X gang had been assembling allies and came marching up the street 100 to 150 strong. There was no question about it but that we were licked from the very beginning. The only question was whether we would just run or whether we would fight at all. The older boys decided to fight; half a dozen were sent to the roofs with bottles and bricks to heave off. There was no intention of killing anybody. In fact, there was no thought what would happen if a bottle happened to land on somebody's head. The only idea was that a barrage from the roofs would be very effective in scaring the invaders away. In the meantime the 15 or 2o youngsters that were left on the street began to put up some sort of a fight with bricks, ashes, coal and whatever they could lay their hands on, but were soon retreating— in fact except for the barrage from the roof we would have been cleaned out before we could have retreated but fortunately or unfortunately, there must have been a good many milk bottles on the roofs of the tenement houses on each side of the street for a rather heavy barrage of bottles protected us. To make a long story short, there was a rush from the X gang and we scattered like wind. I can still remember diving down the cellar at 415 A Street with four or five of the big fellows from the block with me, that is, the 15 or 16 year elders. We had expected to get the door of the cellar shut before anybody could get in. As I recall it we did get it shut but the other gang kicked it open before we got it locked, and then the fight began, because the dumbwaiters all came down the cellar at 415 and there were plenty of milk bottles. A few milk bottles heaved through the door soon cleared the doorway. Fortunately or unfortunately, the whole gang decided to pick on us and broke into the cellar from a side door which we had not anticipated being opened. The result was that a beautiful cellar fight began in which bottles and coal sailed around rather promiscuously and then just at the time when the cops were coming and when according to the law of the gangs we ought all to have dispersed and assumed our most cherublike innocence, one of the fellows in the

(280) A Street gang emptied a revolver. Whether it had any bullets in it or not I do not know. He afterwards said it did have. He emptied it at the ceiling, however, with no intention of hitting anybody, and fortunately didn't. After that we escaped out the windows and over fences. The cops, however, got some of the other gang and as they had been engaged in a gang fight in which there was gun play, some of them went to jail or to reform school. I have just a faint suspicion that had I been caught and sent to a reform school, I wouldn't at the present moment be engaged in writing this letter to you. Just what I would be doing I haven't the faintest idea, but I am willing to bet that it would not be as socially desirable an occupation, either from my point of view, or the point of view of the state, for a good many of the fellows who I know were caught in gang fights at various times are now engaged in bootlegging or other occupations of a like nature.

The point that I intended to make in this connection is merely that most of those fellows were pretty good fellows at heart. There was nothing particularly vicious about them. I later played ball on the docks with members of the "goopher gang" many of whom had been to prison and most of these were as decent fellows as I have met anywhere— probably more decent than some members of the profession that I could name. I am convinced that by far the greater portion of the so-called viciousness that landed them in jail was entirely due to environmental surroundings, lack of parks, proper recreational facilities, etc. However I don't want to overstate this because there is no question but that home environment and particularly the misuse of liquor was a very considerable factor in the final toboggan slide of a good many.

There are various types of gangs. Some are diffuse and loosely organized, others are more solidified and conventional in form. Their activities run from athletics, roving over wide territories in search of exciting experience, to actually criminal operation. The organizations are of the "he-man" sort for the most part, and they cut across racial and nationality barriers in a way which adult groups might not easily do. Some gangs follow nationality lines, and in Chicago, according to Thrasher, there is usually a barrier set up against negroes and in some cases against Jews. The areas of activity are the slum, the railroad tracks, the canals and waterfronts, the busy streets of trade, or wherever there is excitement and movement. The behavior of the boys seems largely motivated by a deep desire for new adventure, with which is associated the romantic imagination of youth. Their conduct is still marked by distinctly infantile and childhood outgrowths of fantasy life— a life which runs to day-dreaming and action dominated by day-dreams. In short, it is an escape from the humdrum existence laid down by adult preoccupations. The dime novel, the moving

( 281) picture, the tales of older boys and men, pictures and magazines— all may serve as effective stimuli to conduct which is essentially an outcome of fantasy thinking. The following excerpts from Thrasher illustrate this:

Play-groups often imitate some gang which they have read about, and become pseudo-gangs. In one case a boy calling himself "Scarfinger Ted" confessed to a dozen crimes which he had not committed, but of which he had read accounts, and was sentenced to twenty-five years in an Iowa penitentiary.[4]

And in another case:

My pal and I belonged to the Silent Three. The third member, who made us a gang, was a very terrible and mysterious personage. He was really the dominant figure in our triumvirate, although he was entirely imaginary. We had a cave in which solemn conclave was held. Secret ceremonies of the most diabolical character took place there, including cursing and spitting on the American flag. We were at odds with the world, to which we felt ourselves superior. To protect our secrets we developed a series of symbols and writings which nobody else could possibly fathom. We also had hidden places where we buried our treasures with the utmost solemnity.[5]

The desire for new adventure sets the pattern of behavior for the gang boy, but the development of the intimate in-group attitudes is determined by the conflicts into which the gang gets with other gangs, as in athletics, or in dispute over territory with the police, with attendance officers from the schools, and with merchants and pedlars. This finally sets the seal on the development of loyalty, organization, hierarchy of officers, determination of plans of action, and the whole range of attitudes which mark the conflict group in general. Within the group certain definite divisions of labor arise. Leadership becomes important, as also do the code of honor and action, the traditions and subordination to purposes of the gang, and the set of distinctly antagonistic attitudes toward outsiders. Among the interesting and significant features of the gang which reveal this social structure and function and, in turn, affect the personality, are the very names of the gangs: "Dirty Dozen," "The Killers," "The Gypsies," "The Bloods," "The Young Iroquois," "The Wolves," "'The Bushwhackers,'' etc. A distinct language is often built up, and sometimes a definite secret vocabulary is developed. Words that most people know only through the news

(282) papers and moving pictures, such as "rod," "hot stuff," "jack rolling," "dick," "jiggers," "frisk," "stool pigeon," and the like, arose from criminal gangs and have passed on to boy gangs everywhere. So, too, members carry all sorts of nicknames which often define personal status in the group. Such are "Fat," "Stiffy," "Toughy," "Slicker," "Sheik." There are also unwritten poems, songs, jokes, and legends which pass from generation to generation among gangs. As Thrasher puts it:

The unity of the group is further aided by the individual slogans, words, traditions, and so on, which are developed by the gang and which symbolize in common terms its objectives . . . . The name of the gang is of particular significance as a means of social control. It affords a common stimulus or value to which all members of the gang may respond with common sentiments. It is the rallying and unifying stimulus in a conflict situation. Since each member of the group is more or less identified with the group name, it becomes a matter of common pride to defend and exalt it.[6]

Codes are more or less formal, depending on the type of group. Puffer notes that disloyalty was one of the most frequent causes for banishment from the group, and that in sixty-six gangs the majority of the rules had to do with giving away secrets or information about the gang, lying, and the necessity of sticking together in case of trouble. One gang, the "Kluck Klan," informed Thrasher regarding their code:

We have fifteen or twenty written rules. Some of them are: (r) We are not allowed to fight among ourselves or razz each other. (a) When you go out, do as you are told. (3) If you get caught, don't squeal on the other guys. (4) Be loyal to the officers. (5) Always defend ladies and girls in trouble. (6) If you get anything, always bring it in and see if it can be useful. (7) Do not lie to each other. [7]

As in other groups, a struggle for status arises. No group is completely homogeneous in functions or in the capacities of members. Individual differences come into play here as elsewhere. Physical prowess marks one boy off from another. In another case superiority in planning expeditions or criminal activities is rewarded with increased prestige. Sometimes the gang has its stupid member— the butt of jokes and the runner of simple errands who hangs on because his membership, inferior as it is, affords

( 283) him a sense of security; and in any case he can vicariously participate in the more violent and exciting escapades of his group.

Thus within the gang we have a picture of the same sort of differences in function, the same desire for prestige, the same development of codes and universes of discourse which are to be found in other groups. For the growing boy this may mark the whole course of his future career. The work of Thrasher, Shaw, and others in analyzing the relation of gang life to delinquency and to membership in adult criminal groups shows definitely that in many cases the gang is the training-ground for adult crime. This, however, is not true in hundreds of gangs. Many members of gangs leave them to take up adult occupations. They marry, settle down to other interests, or move away. In our urban centers, especially, there is much evidence that the more overtly criminal gangs of boys become tools in the hands of older gangs or even of politicians for furthering their own interests. This, in turn, indicates a linkage between the boy groupings and later life.

It has been said that gang life is altogether a socially wholesome experience for the boy, but the evidence does not bear this out in every case. While loyalty and mutual aid are built up, and social solidarity is fostered, it does not follow that these attitudes carry over to participation in the ethical interests of the larger community, any more than it follows that because certain favorable attitudes are built up in a family, such as sympathy and self-sacrifice, these attitudes must carry over to self-sacrifice for the welfare of a larger group, say a church, school, or the political state. The whole question of the transfer of training applies here. It would seem that shifts in attitudes and habits take place in the social world, just as they do in learning school subjects, in terms of specific elements in similar situations plus a more or less conscious identification of the two situations. It is doubtful if the former gang member, now an adult, necessarily feels toward the more intangible civic community the same bonds of responsibility and loyalty that he felt for the closely-knit in-group of his adolescence. He may and he may not. There is certainly no inevitable tendency to make the shift of loyalty to the larger group.

This problem aside, the gang experience marks the boy for the future just as certainly as do the family and the playground associations; and because the gang is welded in conflict and the desire for new adventure, in some ways its influence is even more lasting and significant.


3. The Comrade Group: Another type of association which partakes of many of the characteristics of the primary group is the comradeship. Like the congeniality group and the gang, it grows out of common interests which arise outside the family. It also probably runs back to the spontaneous play-group. Like the congeniality group, the comradeship may exist at almost any level from middle childhood to old age.

The comrade group is limited to the intimate face-to-face relationship of two people to each other. The pairing-off may be among members of the same sex or it may cut across sex lines. It was a recognition of the place of this sort of association in human life which doubtless led Thomas to list the need for intimacy with others in his schema of wishes. If the gang is much concerned with the desire for new experience, the comrade group arises out of the desire for intimate response. Comradeship or companionship (we shall use the terms synonymously) may develop when two children begin walking home from school together, or it may be the outcome of playing together, or it may arise from the discovery of any common interest. Its greatest enhancement seems to come with adolescence and adulthood. The following narrative gives a clue to the sort of thing which frequently occurs

I have always wanted to have a close intimate friend and in my entire life I have nearly always had some one person near me. B. and I went around with a number of other boys in our neighborhood, but between us there wag a ,bond of friendship nearer than was our relation to any other boy in the neighborhood. We often went on hikes together. We went fishing in June and hunting in October. He taught me the rudiments of swimming in the creeks near our town. I never realized until later how he stood up for me around other fellows who sometimes ridiculed my family when I was not present. He gave me more self-confidence and was a source of comfort in trials. We walked back and forth to school together and later went around with girls in a foursome.

After we graduated from the elementary school we went to high school together, but after a few months B. dropped out. From that point on our relations began to change. Although for a year or so we traveled about in the same congenial crowd, we gradually drifted out of the more intimate companionship which had been ours.

In the last year of high school I became attached to L. whom I had known years before as a child, but he had in the meantime lived out of our town and had now come back to finish his high school work. L. and I became bosom friends. We were much together, especially at his home where I was always welcome and treated almost as a son. Our common interests ran now more to intellectual matters than to the outdoor life which had been so much in the

(285) earlier relation with B. We formed a small (congeniality) group which used to meet at L.'s house for discussions on Sunday afternoons. We treated everything from women to politics, economics, and religion. In our Freshman year in college we were introduced into the theories of modern biology and the literary and scientific criticism of the Bible. Our small sectarian college was alive with discussions of what would now be termed fundamentalism versus modernism. But throughout all these discussions with other boys, there always remained the undertone of a more intimate friendship with L. We were often together for hours at a time talking, occasionally riding around in a buggy, and sometimes going out with a couple of girls. This comradeship lasted until L. was married and I had moved away from town.

The next companionship was one developed at the university where I did my first graduate work. In the year and a half there, I had two different men toward whom I developed the comradeship relationship. The first one was a law student who roomed with me, and we were friendly for six months, but he left for home in the spring quarter and I have never heard from him since. The second was a young chap whom I had known as an acquaintance since childhood, but with whom I became friendly for the first time in the months we lived together at graduate school. We ate together, went swimming together, told each other our love affairs, read to each other and carried on hours of talk.

After a year of teaching I went to another university to complete my work for my doctorate. Here I met W. with whom I developed a firm and lasting friendship. The story repeats itself. Both of us were married, but our friendship existed outside any relations of our wives to each other — although they were friendly enough too. But again it was the desire for someone to "spill over" to in talk, to tell one's real thoughts, to explain what one thought was the matter with the major professor, with the economic and moral order or what not. It afforded one a chance to express ideas which did not seem to be understood by women, to be a bit Rabelaisian if one wished, but above all to be unrestrained and confidential without any fear of exposure or misunderstanding.

The unrestricted, untrammeled expression of ideas and the feeling of ease are perhaps of greatest importance in comradeship. They give one a chance to share one's innermost thoughts, one's impulses which might otherwise be repressed into the so-called unconscious, but which here have pretty full swing. Doubtless even the mere verbal response is more valuable than the unexpressed impulses themselves when thrown back on the system.

Rolland in Jean Christophe put the value of friendship in these words:

I have a friend! . . . Oh! the delight of having found a kindred soul to which to cling in the midst of torment . . . . No longer to be alone, no longer never

(286) to unarm, no longer to stay on guard with straining, burning eyes, until from sheer fatigue he should fall into the hands of his enemies! [8]

Another phase of companionship is that which exists between the sexes and leads, as a rule, to sexual relations in or out of the legal marriage code. In The Unadjusted Girl, Thomas has cited the frequent instance of girls indulging in sexual relations merely as a follow-up of a deeper desire for companionship. A young woman goes to work in one of our cities. She has few or no friends there. She wishes to have someone to go about with. She likes to go to "picture shows," to eat in fashionable restaurants, and to attend dances. She meets some young chap who takes her out, who talks to her, who offers her company. Sooner or later in instance after instance — what percentage no one knows— the young man proposes sexual relations with the girl outside wedlock, and again, in case after case, the girl submits rather than give up the other things. Of course, she may be in love with the young man, but even so, there is often a realization that marriage is out of the question. This sort of relationship is so common in our larger cities that every social worker, every juvenile judge, every probation officer, could cite dozens of such examples. Such a desire for companionship, with its almost inevitable result, is the motive of many stories, and one of the recent best-sellers, Bad Girl, revolves around such a theme. The following extract from the diary of a girl in a middle-western city illustrates the point:

I had been working as a waitress of late, . . . and I kept on with it. But the days and nights were empty now— and at last I knew to the full what loneliness could be. One night a nice boy came into the restaurant— it was one of the larger downtown restaurants— and sat down at my table . . . .

There is no use in making a story of it. He had an engaging smile, and was in search of adventure. I was unutterably lonely— and tired. He said that he loved me, and I was willing not to question too closely. I left the rooming-house, and we took a little flat out near Rogers Park. For a month I played at being respectable, got acquainted with young wives in other apartments, hart lovely clothes, lazy hours, ate at the best restaurants, saw the best shows, shopped in smart shops, drove my own car. Then, one day, B. came home and told me he was going back to Oklahoma, and that I wasn't going with him. I said little; I had known it must come, of course, though I had hoped it wouldn't come

( 287) so soon. There was a generous check. And I moved back into the rooming-house.[9]

Here we have a craving for attention, for comradeship, and for social status which was not obtainable for this girl in the ordinary course of life. Her compromise was an effort to escape the horrors of loneliness. A sense of isolation, even when surrounded by other people, restricts the expansion of the personality. and may produce morbid introspection and sense of failure.

Companionship between a young man and a young woman is frequent in college, but how often these intimate comradeships lead to premarital sexual relation no one knows. Among the better economic classes, who send their children to college, the bourgeois moral code still persists, although there seems to be some evidence that this code is breaking down. Sometimes comradeship leads to marriage, sometimes not. A desire for intimate stimulus and response, for sympathy, for amusements enjoyed with others, plays a prominent part in the lives of those in late adolescence and early adulthood. In some instances the companionship exists pretty much on the level of amusements of the lighter sort. In others it exists at a distinctly esthetic and intellectual level, where the couple find their satisfactions in reading and talking together on rather advanced subjects. As in all other types of group relations, there are various levels of life organization, but the motivation for them remains about the same.

The companionship grouping easily leads to marriage in our society, in which the romantic love-pattern is linked to the Christian monogamous marriage system. In .some societies sexual love may exist outside the marriage bond without infraction of the moral code. Just as many footloose persons in our mobile urban life seek companionship out of loneliness and from that drift into extra-marital sexual relation, so, too, the desire for comradeship is often the impetus to marriage.

A young woman, five years out of college and unmarried, remarked that she did not like the general idea of matrimony. She said she would probably get married in the curl, but merely Out of the desire to have someone with whom to share one's advancing years. Her old college girl friends were already marrying off. Within ten years she estimated she would be completely out of touch with all of them. She was in no hurry to reach the matrimonial state,

( 288) but felt it was an inevitable prevention of the ennui and loneliness in middle and old age.

Marriage, interestingly enough, often breaks up companionships between members of the same sex, as it more naturally does those which cut across sex lines. Married men often find that their intimate camaraderie with male friends is sacrificed on the altar of domestic peace. The companionship of a married man and a woman whether married or single, is distinctly frowned upon in our society. Such relations may not involve sexual intercourse at all, but nevertheless they are discountenanced. The offended wife or husband, as the case may be, easily finds support from the community in putting pressure on the mate to prevent or stop such friendships. Psychologically this means, of course, that the framework of intimate comradeship is different before and after marriage. It means that the inter-stimulation which may come from such intimate conversations and common activities may be decidedly restricted. In certain circles, in art groups more than among scientists, one finds exceptions, and the trend in cosmopolitan centers is away from the rigidity of the pre-industrial, Puritan sexual codes.

Curiously enough, in spite of all that we have said of group contacts, there are occasionally persons who never have any contacts with a congeniality group or a gang. They may even be restricted in the range of their experience in comradeship. These are those hermit-like persons who avoid others, who live in the world of their ideas and fancies and, perhaps, if not caught up in some sort of professional contact and intellectual, artistic, or scientific interest, develop dementia praecox. The following document from a very able young woman in her middle twenties reveals the lack of congeniality relations and yet at the end there is an expression of deep-seated desire for this very thing:

I have never been affiliated with any organization or group, either in a formal or more intimate sense, no school societies, no circle of "girl friends," and since my people died before I could remember, not even a member of a family group. As I have been roving about constantly since I was five, I haven't any sense of local pride for any town or state— perhaps a feeling or place— distinction for certain localities, Alaska, the Philippines, various parts of the United States, but that is all, not even much national patriotism. I had private tutoring all my life and hardly knew what it meant to be in a class group until the first year in the University. I never had an intimate girl friend (can't abide them with

( 289) their habits of nestling close to one and talking about appallingly personal things) and but one man friend, a gifted student on this campus.

The result was that when I first came to college, I was astonished and then bored to death with the atmosphere of close organization that I found here. I couldn't understand it and scarcely do yet. Now I am merely utterly indifferent — it means nothing to me. I know if I were a man I should never become a member of a fraternal organization. Nor could I belong to a sorority or fraternity and call those about me, for whom I would have small liking or admiration, "brother" or "sister."

This is the way groups and individuals affect me, usually. Their humanity, that is, their natural kindliness and sympathy, has always had a tendency to weaken my natural strength. I immediately want to lean upon them, which produces a sort of disintegration of my morale. I think I am really happier with occasional misfortune because of the tremendous "kick" of getting from under. I am not particularly anxious to have a group back of me— too easy to accept defeat by smothering one's self-critical sense in the soft folds of their condoling sympathy. The most complete alien in the world to me is not the Chinese, the Hottentot, or the African negro, but the "Babbitts" of this world.

The kind of group with which I should like to be affiliated would be a semiformal literary and scientific group with slight class distinctions, if such a thing is possible. I realize the tremendous advantage such contact means to the individual and it's a matter of regret to me that I don't seem to fit in.

This young woman informed the writer that her only friendship of the year she was in X college was with a young man with whom she occasionally went for a walk. She found him rather stimulating at times, but was not deeply interested in him and when she left the institution she never saw or heard from him again. Though an early marriage had proved a failure, she was not bitter, but simply disappointed with her unsuccessful social contacts. She has taken to literature and shows a considerable promise here which may serve as a partial substitute for her lack of intimate group contacts. [10]

In concluding this chapter on the effects of primary and near-primary groups upon the personality, we may well repeat that it is in the family, the neighborhood, the congeniality group, the gang, and in the comradeship that the fundamental attitudes and habits of the person arc built up. Docility or leadership, ease of manner or confusion in the presence of others, sense of inferiority or superiority, class feelings, prejudices, and the whole

( 290) world of fundamental notions about morals and manners are definitely laid down in ideas, habits, and attitudes before the individual reaches out in adolescence and adulthood for the secondary contacts of which we have yet to speak. Nevertheless the elementary school and the church, which are secondary groups, really take much of their color from family, neighborhood, and community conditions. These two, which we shall discuss next, serve as a bridge to the other secondary group relations which loom so large on the horizon of modern life.


A. Further Reading: Source Book for Social Psychology, Chapter IV, nos. 15, 16, pp. 65-72.

B. Questions and Exercises.

1. Discuss questions and exercises from assignment in Source Book, Chapter IV, nos. 8-10, pp. 75-76.

2. Distinguish between the effects of the neighborhood and the family on the child.

3. Distinguish between the effects of the gang and the family on the child.

4. Distinguish between the gang and the congeniality group.

5. Write out cases of comradeship grouping which you know.

6. What are the advantages of comradeship to the person?

C. Topics for Reports and Longer Written Papers.

1. Report on Thrasher, The Gang, to show how the gang influences personality.

2. Report on Zorbaugh, Gold Coast and Slum, as a picture of disintegrated neighborhoods and personality.

3. Study of Congeniality groups.

4. Effects of Psychological Isolation on the Personality. (Consult bibliography in Park and Burgess, Introduction to Science of Sociology, Chapter IV, pp. 272-76.).



  1. From Who Is My Neighbor?, 1924, p. v. Courtesy of The Inquiry.
  2. From "The True Story of a Hotel Child-An Autobiography," The Designer, 1922, Vol. LV, pp. 58, 61. Courtesy of The Delineator Company.
  3. From The Gang, by F. M. Thrasher, p. 57. Copyright by the University of Chicago, 1927. By "interstitial" the author means that the gang tends to develop in urban regions (or rural for that matter) which are interstitial— which intervene between the "more settled, more stable and better organized portions" of the community. It is usually along the railroad tracks, canals, waterfronts, and in disintegrating neighborhoods like the slums that the gang finds its beginning. These are areas of shifting populations, mobility and lack of moral standards found in better organized residential sections. The gangland, then, is an area on the "economic, moral, and cultural frontier" of our communities.
  4. Ibid., p. 113.
  5. Ibid., p. 118.
  6. Ibid., p. 281.
  7. Ibid., p. 287.
  8. Rolland, Jean Christophe in Paris, 1922, p. 30. Courtesy of Henry Holt and Company.
  9. From Gold Coast and Slum, by H. W. Zorbaugh, p. 82. Copyright by the University of Chicago, 1929.
  10. Since this was written this girl has committed suicide. On her bed, where she had been reading, was found an anthology of verse opened to Alan Seeger's, "I Have A Rendezvous With Death."

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