Social group work is a method of social work which
develops the ability of establishing constructive
relationship in individuals through group activities.
Group experiences are the essential needs of human
being. The reciprocal and dynamic interactions and
transactions between persons and environment are
inherent in social group work practice. Sometimes due
to his/her own fault or weakness and sometimes due
to unfavourable environment, one fails to perform his/
her activities of the group life. Here group work helps
the individual in removing weakness and strengthening
internal power to perform his/her job satisfactorily. The
social group worker must have the theoretical
knowledge of social group work, its principles, its skills,
its models, its assumption so that he/she may be able
to perform his/her jobs most satisfactorily. All these
concepts have been discussed in this chapter.
Principles of Social Group Work
The group worker benefit the conscious understanding
of the basic principles of social group work because this
knowledge provides him/her a frame work to work with
the group. Sometimes the word ‘concept’ and ‘principles’
are used interchangeably but there is difference between the two. The concepts are ideas regarding
individuals, groups and communities emerged from
social and biological sciences as well as from the
humanities disciplines. Such concepts are for example
social distance, problem, role, ego, etc. They are basic
to all social work methods. A principle is a verbalized
statement, general rules or laws, fundamental truths
by which we proceed from one situation to another. A
principle must be understood to mean a hypothesis so
adequately tested by observation and experiment that
it may be put forward as a guide to action. Social group
work principles are guiding assertions of statements
that have come from experience and research. Basic
principles of working with people in groups to help them
grow and change have emerged from the practice of
social group work. The objectives of social group work
can be fulfilled only within the frame work of principles.
Therefore, it seems necessary to deal with basic
principles, which are guiding force for group work
practice. Douglas has described fourteen principles of
social group work.
1) Recognition and subsequent action in relation to
the unique difference of each individual.
2) Recognition and subsequent action in relation to
the wide variety of groups as groups.
3) Genuine acceptance of each individual with his
unique strengths and weaknesses.
4) Establishment of a purposeful relationship between
group worker and group members.
5) Encouragement and enabling of help and cooperative
relationship between members.7) Encouragement of each member to participate
according to the stage of his capacity and enabling
him to become more capable.
8) Enabling members to involve themselves in the
process of problem solving.
9) Enabling group members to experience increasingly
satisfactory forms of working through conflicts.
10) Provision of opportunities for new and differing
experience in relationships and accomplishments.
11) Judicious use of limitations related to the diagnostic
assessment of each individual and total situation.
12) Purposeful and differential use of programme
according to diagnostic evaluation of individual
members group purpose and appropriate social
13) Ongoing evaluation of individual and group progress.
14) Humane and disciplined use of self on the part of
the group worker.
Konopka has described certain principles to work with
the groups. Summary of these principles has been
1) The social worker’s goal is to enable clients or group
members as a whole to move toward greater
independence and capacity for help.
2) The social worker must use the scientific method
to prepare for action fact-finding analysis and
diagnosis in relation to the individual, group and
the social environment.
3) The social worker must form purposeful relationship.
It means a conscious focusing on the needs of the
group members and attempts to fulfill them.
6) Appropriate modification of the group process. 4) The social worker must use himself consciously.
This includes self-knowledge and discipline in
relationship but without the loss of warmth and
5) The social worker must accept members as they
are, without condemning their behaviour. This
involves deep understanding of group members as
well as knowledge and identification of values
regulating human beings.
6) The social worker must understand the origins of
his own value system and be able to handle it in
relation to the value system of others.
7) He must allow members to develop their own
behaviour without much interference and to choose
their own point of departure without imposing
outside demands. But the worker has responsibility
for stimulating change.
Cohen has also discussed certain principles which may
be significant in working with the groups. According to
1) The group members must be encouraged to help
themselves by the social worker playing as indirect
or enabling role rather than a manipulative one. It
means the group members be given the right of
self-direction and self-determination.
2) The work with the group should be started at the
level of group members. It means that proper
knowledge of educational, economic, social and
other characteristics are essential while working
with the group. If the work or programmes are above
the mental level of members, they will loose their
interest. 3) Social worker must focus not merely on the
immediate problem as seen by the group but on
relation to the total situation.
4) Social worker must keep in mind that individual
differences exist while dealing with the group
5) It should be kept in mind that the welfare of
individual is inextricably interwoven with the
welfare of the group. Therefore social worker must
be concerned with the development of material,
human and social resources to meet all the needs
of all the members of the group.
Friedlander has mentioned the following basic
principles of social group work.
1) The function of the social group worker is a helping
or enabling one. This means that his goal is to help
the members of the group and the group as a whole
to move toward greater independence and capacity
2) In determining his/her way of life, the group worker
uses the scientific method--- fact-finding, analysis
and diagnosis in relation to the individual, the group
of the social environment.
3) The group work method requires the worker to form
purposeful relationship to group members and the
4) One of the main tools in achieving such relationship
is the conscious use of self.
5) A basic respect and love for people without
considering his weakness.
6) The work should be started from where the group
7) There should be constructive use of limitations. The
group worker will mainly use himself, programme
materials, interaction of the group and awaking of
insight in the group members.
8) Every member of the group should be understood
separately. It means individualization is essential.
9) Interaction is a process through which group
members develop their strengths and power.
Therefore, social group worker should properly
monitor this process.
10) It is also necessary that non-verbal activities and
programmes should be understood and used
alongwith the verbal material.
Trecker has explained the following principles of social
1) The principle of planned group formation.
2) The principle of specific objectives.
3) The principle of purposeful worker-group
4) The principle of continuous individualization.
5) The principle of guided group interaction.
6) The principle of democratic group selfdetermination.
7) The principle of flexible functional organisation.
8) The principle of progressive programme experience.
9) The principle of resource utilization.
10) The principle of evaluation. On the basis of different principles discussed by different
social work authors, we may summarize as follows.
1) Principle of planned organisation of the group.
2) Principle of understanding each individual as a
member of a group and as an individual.
3) Principle of equality.
4) Principle of understanding relationship as tool for
solving group problems as well as individual
problems and also for development of the group.
5) Principle of encouragement of each member of the
6) Principle of recognition of variety of groups with
7) Principle of self-development, i.e. full opportunity
to the group to organise it programmes according to
8) Principle of self problem solving. Members should
be involved in understating and solving problems
9) Principle of use of programme according to diagnosis
of the group. Different types of programmes are
needed according to the problems of the group.
10) Principle of experience development. Each member
of the group should get opportunity to act and express
his feelings in the group.
11) Principle of understanding the importance of group
life in shaping and moulding one’s character and
personality. The group worker should believe the
importance of group experience. 12) Principle of understanding the group process and
its different elements, for example, group structure,
role and status, division of responsibility, etc.
13) Principle of understanding familiarity with the
process of cooperation, conflict, accommodation,
resistance and ambivalence in the group. This
knowledge is essential to handle the different group
14) Principle of modification in-group process. The group
worker always keeps in mind the result of group
activities. If it is not as it is required he suggests
the group members to modify their activities and
15) Principle of providing new opportunities. It is the
job of group worker to make aware the group about
the opportunities of work in different fields and also
the ways and means to avail these opportunities.
16) Principle of use of constructive limitations. Nobody
is perfect. This is also applicable to the group
members. Whatever the capacity and ability they
have should be used properly by the group and
whatever the limitations, they should fully
understand and attempts should be made to work
within these limitations.
17) Principle of conscious use of himself/herself. The
role of group worker is to guide the interaction
process of the group. He/She should interfere in
the group activities only when group members
should demand for his/her help. Members of the
group should not feel that the worker is
unnecessary interferes in their affairs.
18) Principle of use of scientific action plan. It means
that the social group worker first find out the problem of the group or collect data and on the basis
of collected facts, the diagnosis is done. After that
action plan should be prepared for the solution of
the problem and for the development of the group.
19) Principle of acceptance. It means that the group
worker should accept the members as they are
without condemning any weakness. At group level,
it must accept the services of the group worker.
20) Principle of understanding values. Values are the
guiding force for behaviour expression, they must
be kept in mind while dealing with the group
21) Principle of determination of specific objectives.
Objectives should be clear for the group as well as
to the group worker.
22) Principle of resource utilization. The group may have
different kind of needs and these needs cannot be
fulfilled by one agency and therefore the worker
should tap the resources of the community.
23) Principle of evaluation, continuous examination and
evaluation of group activities.