Appendix 5: Process of group Socialization

Membership in a group helps to fulfill certain needs.fn 255 It is helpful in daily life to have the support of people who share one's views on life. Everyone feels the need at some point to feel close to a person or group that shares similar goals.fn 256

Coming into contact with a group, joining it, participating in its daily activities and leaving it are common stages in the experience of a member. Of course, each member's experience is unique, but all members usually go through the following stages: contact with the group, evaluation, socialization, re-socialization and departure. This appendix explores each of these stages.

Contact between the group and the individual: Getting to know each other

The first few contacts between the individual and the group represent a period of evaluation during which everyone gets to know each other. This period varies in length from one individual or group to the next. During this phase:

· The group evaluates the individual's qualities and assesses his or her skills in order to determine if this candidate has the necessary qualities to become a member of the group;

· The individual evaluates the group to determine if it can fulfill his or her needs.

The group and the individual essentially conduct an analysis of the costs versus the benefits of becoming associated with one another. This evaluation is based on characteristics—emotional, behavioural, intellectual, etc.—that vary depending on the group and the individual.


After this initial evaluation process, an individual and a group may jointly decide to associate. In this case, the individual chooses to commit to the group and to accept the norms that govern life within the group.fn 257 An implicit contract may be forged between the individual and the group, in which:

· The member agrees to accept the norms and to participate in achieving common goals;

· The group commits to fulfilling its promises to the new member.

The adaptation process

Once an individual has become involved in a group there is a period of adaptation in which:

· The new member and the group must be flexible to satisfy each other's needs;

· The individual must accept the group's norms, values and views. He or she must adhere to and internalize the group's method of functioning;

· The member now communicates the group's values through his or her words and behaviours;

· The group must also try to fulfill the needs of the new member.

When the adjustment period is over, the transition to acceptance is complete and the person becomes an integral member of the group. However, in some groups, a member's transformation during the socialization process has created a great deal of controversy.

· Some argue that the transformation of choices, decisions, behaviour and personality of group members is the result of mind control. The member is viewed as a victim. The member's association is not voluntary, but rather the result of undue influence through techniques employed by other members and their leaders;fn 258

· Others claim that the transformation of members during the socialization process is a normal part of life within the group.fn 259 Moreover, members often seek this transformation or conversion.fn 260

Maintaining the relationship between the member and the group

During this phase, the individual and the group negotiate the nature and quality of their respective participation. If the member and the group are satisfied, then the relationship can be long lasting.

However, relationships between members and the group can sometimes deteriorate. Disagreements may arise, for example, when a member is no longer able to fulfill the role assigned to him or her or when a member is no longer satisfied with his or her place within the group.

When divisions emerge between the group and one of its members, the member in question may undergo a period of re-socialization

Re-socializationfn 261

During re-socialization, the member renegotiates his or her role within the group. The identity of the member is also redefined, as a marginal member with an uncertain future within the group.

The group tries to re-socialize the marginal member by encouraging him or her to correct errant behaviour in order to restore his or her good standing within the group.

This negotiation process can end with the reintegration of the individual as a full member or the member's departure from the group.

Departure or expulsion from the groupfn 262

Former members may recall why they joined a group and why they decided to leave or were expelled. Furthermore, they may reinterpret their experience based on the difficulties encountered at the time of their departure. Ex-members remember their departure differently depending on how they feel about their overall experience within the group, which may have been:

· Positive;

· Neither good nor bad;

· Physically, spiritually or psychologically abusive, or financially draining.

The group may question its own method of functioning. For example, it may:

· Question the experience it had with the ex-member. This member's participation within the group may become a living example of a “bad member” in the eyes of existing and future members.

· Change existing norms to prevent the recurrence of a similar situation.


©Info-Cult 2006