Social experience for most children and adolescents includes banding together in collectives with two or three other children, sometimes many more. Friendships and other dyadic relationships are sometimes embedded or nested in groups, sometimes not. In any event, children’s groups are more than the sum of the dyadic relationships existing within them. 
Groups have unique characteristics; they vary in size, cohesiveness, density, and structure in ways that relationships do not. Collectives become groups when social interaction among the members occurs regularly; values are shared, beyond those common to every child or adolescent in the culture; members have a sense of belonging; and a structure exists that supports the norms that brought the members together in the first place.
Children belong to some groups even though they do not seek membership; families and classrooms are examples. Membership in other groups is more volitional. Either way, social functioning depends on whether the group serves “reference” functions, that is, whether members are identified with it and want to continue being members. 

Groups are conceived differently by younger and older children, and concepts continue to change during adolescence. Preschool-age children have little sense of group awareness and even young school-age children identify their play groups as collections of interlocking twosomes. Conceptions of peer groups as homogenous communities or cultures is largely a phenomenon of adolescence, and the idea that these groups are also pluralistic entities is an advanced notion (Jacquette, 1976). 

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