In this lesson, we will learn about the two-person group known as the dyad. We’ll look into sociologist George Simmel’s description of its unique features, and compare it to other group sizes.
Definition of a Dyad
It is simply part of life that we form relationships and have interactions with other people.
Once we do, we are considered to be in a group with them, whether it is a very small group, like just you and another person, or a group of a few people or several people. And the interesting thing is that each one of these groups will have characteristics of their own and affect you and those in the group with you in their own ways.Sociologist Georg Simmel found the nature of group dynamics particularly interesting – especially when the dynamics changed based on the number of people in the group. So, he studied the smallest to the largest groups and wrote about the unique traits of each of them in his essay, ‘Quantitative Aspects of the Group.
‘ In this lesson, we will be talking about the smallest group Simmel identified: the dyad, or two person group.Most of us are familiar with what it’s like to be in a dyad, even if wey’ve never heard the word. As long as you have had a close relationship with one other person where you have interacted with them over a long period of time, you have been a part of a dyad. And when you hear about the characteristics Simmel used to describe the dyad, I am sure they will make sense to you as you think about your own relationships.
Characteristics of a Dyad
To begin with, a dyad is considered to be a primary group. Simmel categorized groups into either primary or secondary groups; primary ones meaning those that are small and close.
More specifically, Simmel laid out these descriptions of a dyad:
- It is composed of two people. The most basic requirement for a group to be considered a dyad is that it has to have two people. This includes you, so it could be you and your father, you and your sister, you and your best friend, you and your boyfriend, and so on.
- It occurs over a length of time and interactions. The relationship you have with the other person is a long-term relationship with many interactions in various settings. You begin to experience patterns in the interactions because of how often they occur. It is more substantial than surface, not like brief and unpredictable interactions you would have with someone, like a lab partner or a real estate agent.
- It is intense and intimate. This is a relatively deep relationship, where one person’s words, actions, etc. affect the other person.
It includes interactions where there is a sharing of inner thoughts and emotions. A married couple, for example, shares their feelings and goals and are affected by those expressed by their partner.
- It is unstable and requires work. A dyad is only a dyad when there are two people.
And since one person can easily change or decide to leave the group, take a break-up for example, it makes the group fragile. Once someone leaves, the group no longer exists. It relies on the working together and cooperation of both people to succeed.
- It involves personal responsibility.
Both people have duties for the maintenance and workings of the dyad. They cannot delegate responsibilities to other members, and they have to take personal blame if they fail to act. Think of how easy it can be to blame others for not doing what was needed in a given situation when there are several people to fault besides yourself. That’s not possible in a dyad.
How a Dyad Differs from Other Groups
A dyad is more fragile than a large group.
If a one or two people leave a large group, the group itself still exists. It is also less stable than a triad, or three person group, because if there is a problem with two people in this group, then the third can play mediator, as long as the two do not join against the third.
A dyad is a long, close relationship in which there is emotional investment for both people involved. It is intense and intimate and it requires attention, effort and the willingness to work together. If anything goes wrong, one person is held responsible, rather than being able to blame other members of a larger group.