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Communication is a vital ingredient of human life. According to Adler, Proctor and Towne, communication is so important that its presence or absence can impact physical health (3). However, communication between two individuals greatly differs from that in groups. Interpersonal communication in groups raises important tensions and may result in conflicts of interests and even competition. The current state of literature provides ample examples of interpersonal conflicts and misunderstandings in groups. In movies, competition and self-disclosure in groups often go hand in hand. More important, however, is the way groups are formed, as the quality of interpersonal communication varies, depending on the stage of group development. The Breakfast Club movie is a story of the group’s gradual evolution towards better cohesiveness and inclusion.
The Breakfast Club: Stages of Group Development
The Breakfast Club is one of the best illustrations of Tuckman’s stages of group development. Forming, storming, norming, and performing are widely recognized as the four main stages of group development. In The Breakfast Club, students pass all four stages of group development until they realize the value of interpersonal communication and self-disclosure. The story of The Breakfast Club characters begins early Saturday morning, when they come to school to spend the entire day in detention. Each of the five students has violated one or several school rules, and detention is expected to give them some time and space for rethinking their actions. It is interesting to note that the five students detained in the school library hardly have anything in common. They represent different social strata and have different interests and tastes. The forming stage of the group’s evolution is directly related to the fact of detention: actually, the group is created only because all five students have violated school laws. This is also the only common feature that unites them.
Once closed in the school library, the group moves from forming to the storming stage of group development. This is, probably, one of the most controversial and challenging elements of any group’s performance. The storming stage of group development exposes the existing tensions, disagreements, and conflicts. As a member of the higher social layer, Claire thinks that she has nothing in common with the other students. She says that she does not belong to the detained group. Meanwhile, Allison Reynolds tries to pretend that she is not there – her classmates tend to ignore her, and she does not try to change the situation. The culmination of the storming stage comes with the students’ emotional outburst: they all have something to say about their lives. Self-disclosure slowly moves them to the next, norming stage of group development.
The norming stage of group development is both complex and unique. The uniqueness of the norming stage in The Breakfast Club is in that the norms are set by a person who is not a member of the group. Professor Vernon demands that the five students do not talk, do not walk, and spend their time writing an essay about themselves. “You’re not fooling anyone, Bender. The next screw that falls out will be you” (The Breakfast Club). This is what Professor Vernon tells Bender while he is trying to impose his norms of behavior on the students. Bender is the only student who does not fear to make open claims about Vernon. In his argument with the Professor, Bender earns eight more Saturdays in detention. Nevertheless, the group withstands Vernon’s pressure and does not accept his norms. The five members of the group develop their own norms. These norms allow them to walk across the library, communicate and interact, ask questions and engage in conversations.
Eventually, the detention group reaches the performing stage of development, where they can accomplish their personal and collective goals. First, they develop productive relations and successfully disclose themselves. Second, they learn to hear others and articulate their thoughts more effectively. Third, they realize and recognize the value of differences and learn to accept them. Fourth, they develop friendly and romantic relationships. At the performing stage, the group becomes even more cohesive. Its members look like they cannot imagine themselves without one another any longer. This, in turn, raises the question of the group’s cohesiveness and factors affecting it.
The Breakfast Club and Group Cohesiveness
Detention is, probably, the main factor of group cohesiveness in The Breakfast Club. Despite considerable individual and socioeconomic differences, all five students are common in their rebelliousness and unwillingness to stay in the school library on Saturday. They have violated school rules, and none of them accepts detention as a punitive measure. However, detention alone cannot improve group cohesiveness. In The Breakfast Club, interpersonal communication becomes the glue keeping members of the detention group together. At the storming stage of group development, students begin to talk to each other. Even when they express their disagreement or sound rude, they articulate their thoughts and, consequentially, allow other students to better understand them. Adler, Proctor and Towne write that communication (or the lack thereof) greatly affects physical health (3). In The Breakfast Club, communication profoundly impacts physical health of the group. As a result, The Breakfast Club can be rightly considered as a story of the group’s evolution toward better cohesiveness and inclusion.
The Breakfast Club is a perfect illustration of Tuckman’s four stages of group development. In the movie, five students are detained in a school library on Saturday for violating school rules. Detention, violations, and rebelliousness are the only features the students have in common. Nevertheless, it is detention that contributes to their cohesiveness. The students pass all four stages of group development and finally learn to hear others and articulate their thoughts more effectively. As such, The Breakfast Club can be rightly considered as a story of the group’s evolution toward better cohesiveness and inclusion.