4. Group socialization

Group socialization describes the developmental process of the individual within the group. Group socialization is the process during which the group adjusts the new group member to the group norms, the way of actions accepted by the group, that is, assimilates the new group member. The model originally described by Levine and Moreland (1994) is mainly applicable for groups that are long-lasting, and there is regular direct communication among the group members, though the members of the group may change over time. This description perfectly suit sport teams as well, besides many other group types (e.g., intimate groups, work teams, etc.).

Levine, Moreland and Ryan (1994) divide the group socialization process into five stages, with the corresponding roles:

  • investigation phase – prospective member

  • socialization phase – new member

  • maintenance phase –full member

  • resocialization phase – marginal member

  • remembrance phase – ex-member

Between the particular phases a role transition occurs, during which the group member appears in a new role for the group. In the first phase, investigation, the group is usually seeking such a new member who can fit in the group to help the group to reach their goal, helps to move the group forward, and possess the personal characteristics, abilities and skills necessary for this. When the person who seems to be right for the role is found, a role transition, called entry or initiation, occurs. This role transition many times include serious rituals, in which the new team member goes through the baptism of fire, which may be very demanding for the new team member.

The psychological background of such initiation rituals most likely is the effort justification effect (Aronson & Mills, 1959), that is based on the cognitive dissonance theory described by Festinger and Carlsmith (1959). Based on this theory initiation is important because people going through an initiation process in order to become members of the group, later tend to evaluate the group more positively (in order to ease the evolving cognitive dissonance), even if the group does not live up to the expectations.

After the initiation, in the second phase the socialization of the new team member is taking place, during which the member just entered is getting acquainted with the group norms, the behavioral expectations shared by the group members, that rule the activities of the group and the behavior of the group members. It is also characteristic of this phase that the new group member obtains the knowledge and skills necessary for the new role as a team member, acquire the behavioral repertoire that is required for the team member being in that particular position of the group. At the end of the socialization process the new member becomes a full member of the group via the role transition called acceptance. From the beginning of the process up to this point the commitment is increasing monotonously.

After the new member of the group becomes a full member the next phase is called maintenance, or support, characterized by a high degree of commitment from the part of the new full member, moreover that the group membership is perceived as rewarding by both the new member and the group, that is, a mutually satisfactory situation in reached.

The next role transition is called divergence and may have several reasons. The basis of this role transition is that the group membership is not rewarding enough anymore, because the position filled in the group is not the most satisfactory, or appears an external group that is more appealing.

After the divergence sometimes attempts are made by the group to try to resocialize the marginalized member, that is, the group may try to find a new role for such a team member, or restructure the group to make it more appealing for the marginalized member.

In case the resocialization attempt is unsuccessful, exit is inevitable, as the last role transition in the group, which is accompanied with rituals just as in case of the initiation. In the remembrance phase the evaluation of the memories and experience is evaluated by the group and the particular member as well, and these add to the traditions of the group.

Development of groups

It is common to divide the development of the (small) groups into five major phases based on Tuckman’s (1965) work:

  1. forming

  2. storming

  3. norming

  4. performing

  5. adjourning (or mourning) (This last phase was not included in the original concept, Tuckman added this phase later.)

In the forming phase the group members get to know each other, the phase is kind of an exploration, collecting data, and impressions, but in this stage the team members are usually behave in a careful and deliberate way, avoiding clashes and conflicts.

In the storming phase, conflicts may occur already, as there are differences in points of views concerning the attainment of group goals, rivalry may evolve in seizing certain roles or functions in the group. In this stage, lack of balance may be characteristic, as conflicts evolve, and gets resolved over time.

In the norming phase, a certain solidarity, cohesion evolves among the group members, usually this is the phase when the sense of belonging to the group takes shape, and a kind of identification with the other group members, and the common norms emerge.

In the performing phase the group is already consolidated and members can work together for the common goals in a flexible and adaptive manner. Leadership and other roles took shape, but these can change depending on the circumstances, in order the group cope with challenges in the most optimal way.

The adjourning or mourning phase is mostly adjourning when it comes to sport teams, when the evaluation of result, fulfillment of goals takes place and the leaving members say goodbye to the group.