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Triad (sociology)

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In sociology a triad is a group of three people. It is one of the simplest human groups that can be studied and is mostly looked at by microsociology. The study of triads, as well as dyads, was pioneered by German sociologist Georg Simmel at the end of the nineteenth century.

One common rule that has been widely observed is that in any group of three people two will tend to unite against the other one. This makes triads a far less stable arrangement than dyads. Larger groups also tend to be more stable because of the greater variety of relationships that can form in them. This is true for many different groups of people from groups of three siblings to groups of coworkers. This rule makes triads a very unstable grouping that has a high likelihood of leading to conflict. Because of this, groups of three are often avoided. For instance university roommates are almost always put in groups of two, as a room with three is far more likely to lead to conflict and unhappiness.

An important exception is when one of the members of the group is clearly dominant. Allegiance to a dominant can create a team mentality, both from the submissives to the dominant, the dominant to the submissives, and the submissives to one another.

A store with three employees can function very well if one is clearly the boss. The other two may unite against the one, or one another for the boss' favor, but since they are far weaker this will not have much effect. In other circumstances, the shared allegiance to the dominant allows them to have a stable relationship, tiered or no. In societies where polygamy is practiced, sexual relationships often follow these rules, dependent also on societal rules.

The theory of triads among people has also been applied to countries by those studying international relations and many of the same basic principles hold. See also the theory of triangles.

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