Up to now we have been looking at triads that relate to distress in a social system with the implication that these forms are themselves the source of some malignant tension. The position taken here is that they are neither good nor bad. They are natural regulatory mechanisms which may or may not -- depending on the point of view -- exact too high a price. They take a benign shape when a group is functioning well, and what we have come to think of as a pathological shape when it is not.
Let us start with the "natural triad" of Morris Freilich, which Caplow mentions in Two Against One, as a good example of a benign triangle. Freilich, an anthropologist with an interest in triads, noticed a peculiar three-person arrangement that occurred over and over again in kinship groups in many countries. What is interesting about this triangle is that it has many of the same basic characteristics as Haley's "perverse triangle" and Caplow's "improper coalition." There is a close tie between a superior and a subordinate;