This article is about social groups. For the concept in graph theory, see Clique (graph theory). For other uses, see Clique (disambiguation).
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In the social sciences, a clique (AusE, CanE, UK /ˈklk/ or US /ˈklɪk/) is a group of people who interact with each other and share similar interests.[1] Interacting with cliques is part of normative social development regardless of gender, ethnicity, or popularity. Although cliques are most commonly studied during adolescence and middle childhood, they exist in all age groups. Generally people in a clique will not have a complete open friend group, and they can "ban" members of the clique if they do something deemed to be unacceptable, such as talking to someone generally disliked by the clique. People that are part of a clique are bonded together through shared and /or similar social characteristics such as race, ethnicity, economic status, physical appearance, etc.[2]

Being part of a clique is usually seen as a norm in society regardless of status. Cliques are most likely to be prevalent during teenage years, but are found in other age groups. Cliques may be formed among, for example, athletes, nerds, workmates, fraternities, sororities, cheerleaders. Cohesive factors may include ethnicity, similar interest, physical appearance, etc. Members of a clique often isolate themselves as a group, and view the clique as superior.


Within the concepts of sociology, cliques are a formation of two or more individuals who share bonding characteristics that allow for them to identify with one another to form a social network. Those within the group communicate and associate with each other more so than with those outside of the group.[3] The formation of cliques can be identified within different social environments throughout the course our lives; one person may be part of multiple cliques, each forming and functioning independently from one another. Cliques are relevant in society due to the social influence or peer pressure that results from the interactions with individuals who share a common characteristic. The outcomes associated with clique formations may be endless with varying degrees of influence.[4] For example, a formal clique, such as a professional organization, would have a different kind of influence as compared to a social clique consisting of close friends.

Social isolation

Paolo Parigi and Warner Henson II, in their article titled "Social Isolation In America" [5] defines social isolation and shows how prevalent it is in our society.

"Isolation refers to the degree of apartness of an entity; may have structural or subjective interpretations" [6]

A clique involves a high degree of social commitment to a specific group. The stronger this commitment results in the individual having a reduced amount of interaction with other social groups. Clique behaviour often involves repetition in regards to settings, activities, vernacular, preferences, and manner. These particular behavioral sets often results in conflict with other cliques which in turn creates "outsiders". Individuals will surely experience Social Isolation when interacting with other cliques unless values significantly overlap.

Members of cliques are not necessarily exclusive to their group, many members often befriend individuals from other cliques. However, these relationships tend to be less emotionally rewarding due to the reduced level of mutual values and behaviours.

Cliques are commonly established in social settings such as schools, teams, work, and neighbourhoods. Individuals can experience social isolation within their own clique if their values and/or behaviour begin to differ from the rest of the group. This is a more advanced form of social isolation as the individual becomes distanced from all cliques. The dynamics of inter-clique relationships become exceedingly complex as the overall number of individuals grow within the social setting. For example,[7] a school of 500 children could form 30 individual cliques with very simplistic inter-clique activity. Conversely, a school with 10,000 students will form an intricate structure of cliques and sub-clicks with members moving freely between groups. In a small school, Jocks will socialise with other jocks. In the larger school, football players who form a clique may not interact with track-and-field athletes.


Different factors affect the way cliques are established. In some cases, people are subconsciously placed in a clique by association. For example, joining a basketball team usually causes others to automatically perceive you as an "athlete". Many people may gravitate toward a clique subconsciously through the way they are perceived or whom they associate with.

Having similar interest is the most common way cliques are formed. As people interact with each other doing the simple things that they enjoy doing, they may find themselves drifting towards or becoming attracted to others that share the same passion. This usually may cause someone to gain more confidence being surrounded by people with similar interest as them. Not to mention it may cause an individual to feel more socially accepted.

Ethnicity usually plays a role according to setting or time frame. In today's society as race still is prevalent, cliques solely based on race have been formed. One memorable example of such a clique could be the Ku Klux Klan, a notorious white supremacy group.

Members of cliques often create their own distinct dress code and communicate with each other differently then other cliques. As a result, this makes a clique unique and gives each member a reassuring feeling that they belong to that specific group. As these cliques come together is isn't hard to distinguish one from the other.

Interactions between members of a clique can also lead to organized social events, such as parties, significant dates, or private meetings. Clique members have a strong commitment to their respected group. In regards to this, being present at social events is seen as mandatory. Considering this, it's shows the firmness of cliques and how people ultimate conform to these specific groups.

Tina Abbott, in her book "Social and Personality Development" goes into detail about how these members conform to their specific group. "Conformity to peer groups is a prerequisite to achieving independence and autonomy as an adult.... As the young person struggles to become independent from their parents, they use the security provided by the peer group and the self-confidence that comes with it, to take the final step towards independence".[8]


Homophily is a term used to describe the way people tend to link up with others due to the fact that they share similar characteristics. The existence of homophily is also very prevalent in today's society. This concept can be seen as a possible main cause for clique formation.

On the subject of homophily, people come together and link up for many different reasons. The most typical reason is, simply, people who are close in location easily bond with each other. Also, people that meet through family, workplace, and any activities that place people in contact with others, often form personal relationships.

In some cases, the impact of homophily can be seen when people in cliques get married. Furthermore, homophily has plenty to do with how social networks thrive.

Network formation

Networking involves meeting up with new people to form relationships and work together to gain better opportunity. Some people find that joining a clique is means for finding or gaining a better chance at success. For example, many join a sorority or fraternity to gain a better advantage at getting a job because they may be hired by someone who may be affiliated. Cliques go hand in hand in the way people network.


Every clique has some form of organization that makes up the network of social interaction.[9] Informal clique networks are groups that do not have a legitimate organizational structure in which they can be established and dissolved in a shorter time period. An informal clique may consist of a person's friend group or co-workers while it may also identify other more informal groups, such as criminal gangs.[10] On the other hand, a formal clique is a group with a socially accepted organization that is hierarchical in structure. A formal clique is composed of members who have identifiable roles and interactions with one another and is found in the structure of numerous professional organizations, businesses, and even family structure. Culture is a very influential factor in the organization of clique structures because the boundaries established through differences in cultural aspects are persistent, even when the membership varies from time to time. For example, the differences in language, beliefs, traditions, etc. have always created a distinct separation or boundary between groups of people even though the members of that particular group are constantly changing.[11]


The formation and deformation of clique structures does not end with adolescence, even though the number of interactions with clique groups decreases and the type of groups may change. As individuals become adults, their social interpretations alter and the formation of their cliques comes more from their immediate environment, rather than from common social characteristics.[12] A clique should not be confused with a crowd because the smaller size and specific boundaries of a group is what causes the group formation to be considered a clique. A clique can develop in a number of different ways and within environments that consist of individuals who interact on a regular basis. The structural cohesion of the clique is the constant face-to-face interaction between members that can either create or dissolve the group, depending upon the level of interaction. If face-to-face interaction is established regularaly then cohesion between individuals will form and if the face-to-face interaction depreciates, then the cohesive social bond between said individuals will dissolve.[13]

Social impact

A clique may inhibit external social influence, by impacting the emotions, opinions, or behaviors of group members.[14] There are many ways in which the perception of information between members in a clique can influence other members on a greater level than if they had received the same information from a different source. For example, receiving information from a close friend or family member is interpreted and responded to in a different way, as compared to receiving the same information from someone who is not within the clique structure. The satisfaction, interaction, and closeness between the clique groups that we involve ourselves in develops and changes throughout the years, however, there is always a constant morphing of both the individual and the group.[15]

See also


  1. Salkind, Neil (2008-01-01). "Cliques". Encyclopedia of educational psychology. Sage Publications.
  2. Labrum, Chris. "Cliques: Poverty & Prejudice: Gangs of All Colors". EDGE. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
  3. Tichy, Noel. "An Analysis of Clique Formation and Structure in Organizations". Sage Publications Inc. JSTOR 2392063.
  4. Miller, Delbert C. "Decision-Making Cliques in Community Power Structures: A Comparative Study of an American and English City". University of Chicago Press. JSTOR 2773197.
  5. "Paolo Parigi - Department of Sociology - Stanford University" (PDF).
  6. Parigi Paolo, and Warner Henson II. "Social Isolation in America." Annual Review of Sociology. Annual Review of Sociology, 2014. Web. 04 Mar. 2016.
  7. "Stanford researcher explores why cliques thrive in some high schools more than others".
  8. Abbott, Tina. "Do Peers Influence Conformity?" Social and Personality Development. Hove, East Sussex: Routledge, 2001. 94. Print.
  9. Peay, Edmund R. "Hierarchail Clique Structures". American Sociological Association. JSTOR 2786466.
  10. Krackhardt, David; Stern, Robert N. "Informal Networks and Organizational Crises: An Experimental Simulation". stro. American Sociological Association. JSTOR 2786835.
  11. Barth, Fredrik (1998-03-11). Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization of Culture Difference. Waveland Press. ISBN 9781478607953.
  12. Carstensen, Laura L. "Social and Emotional Patterns in Adulthood: Support For Socioemotional Theory". APA PsycNET. US: American Psychological Association. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
  13. Friedkin, Noah E. (1984-02-01). "Structural Cohesion and Equivalence Explanations of Social Homogeneity". Sociological Methods & Research. 12 (3): 235–261. doi:10.1177/0049124184012003001. ISSN 0049-1241.
  14. Hochschild, Arlie Russell. "Emotion work, Feeling Rules, and Social Structure". University of Chicago Press. JSTOR 2778583.
  15. Carstensen, Laura L. "Social and Emotional Patterns in Adulthood: Support For Socioemotional Theory". APA PsycNET. US: American Psychological Association. Retrieved 30 March 2016.
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