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Difference Between Dyads and Triads

Updated February 21, 2017

The terms dyad and triad describe groups of people in the field of sociology. Both terms refer to primary people groups that are the fundamental building blocks within a society. How individuals in dyads and triads relate to each other is predictive of the way that communication patterns within groups of people in the larger society evolve. The basic relational patterns are factors that influence how the overall society functions.

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Definition of Dyad

Dyad is a term used to describe groups of two people within a society. The term comes from the Latin word dyas, meaning two. For example, a married couple is a dyadic couple. Dyadic can describe communication between two people. A dyadic pair may develop their own communication idioms and have personal meanings attached to words or gestures that no one outside of their dyad knows or understands. A dyad is the smallest possible people group, because a relationship or a group cannot consist of one person.

Definition of Triad

The triad is another basic social building block. It describes a group of three people. This group is also one of the simplest human groups, and the rules learnt in the study of triads sometimes apply to larger groups. A common behaviour observed in a triad is that, in any group of three people, two of the members will often unite against the third

One example of this phenomenon is when a couple goes out on a date, and one of their friends tags along. The outsider spends his time trying to connect with one of the members of the group at the expense of the third. In a social setting, triads are far less stable arrangements than dyads.

In Relationships

The strength of any relationship is dependent on the amount of time the people in the relationship spend together. It is also important that they share a common vision. Relational depth grows when individuals share emotions, experiences, values, and a common vision. As a result, the relationships in a triad are likely to be less reliable than those in a dyadic pair are, unless the triad is composed of like-minded individuals who share a common vision or set of values. Identifying highly influential dyads in a larger setting may be the key to getting an entire organisation to participate in a venture.

As Nations

Lessons from these primary sociological groups also apply to the relationships between nations. The axiom "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" seems to come directly from the interactions of a triadic group. When two nations are opposed to a third, they can bond together against the third to strengthen their own positions. The alliance between Great Britain, the United States and Russia against Germany in WWII was an example of this.

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About the Author

Timothy Burns

Since 2003, Timothy Burns' writing has appeared in magazines, management and leadership papers. He has contributed to nationally published books and he leads the Word Weavers of West Michigan writers' group. Burns wrote "Forged in the Fire" in 2004, and has published numerous articles online. As a trained conference speaker, Burns speaks nationally on the art, science and inspiration of freelance writing.

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