The Effectiveness of a Mediation Program in Symmetrical versus Asymmetrical Neighbor-to-Neighbor Conflicts

The last decades, neighborhood mediation programs have become an increasingly popular method to deal with conflicts between neighbors. Past research on the effectiveness of neighborhood mediation programs mainly focused on cases in which a mediation session effectively took place. However, persuading parties to participate in a mediation session forms a major challenge for mediators. In fact, many cases that are signed-up for mediation programs do not result in an actual mediation.

In the current paper we propose and show that conflict asymmetry, the degree to which parties differ in perceptions of the level of conflict, may be important for the course and outcomes of neighborhood mediation. We examined the entire process concerning 261 cases of neighbor conflicts reported to a Dutch neighborhood mediation program in the period from 2006 through 2008. As expected, cases were more often about asymmetrical than symmetrical conflicts. Moreover, compared to symmetrical conflicts, asymmetrical conflicts less often led to a mediation session; the degree of escalation was lower; and, particularly in asymmetrical conflicts, a mere intake session already contributed to positive conflict outcomes.

The results of this study suggest that mediators should be aware of the divergence of conflict perceptions between conflict parties because it may affect the course and outcomes of a case. Moreover, both mediators and policy makers should realize that a mere intake session already can be beneficial for the outcomes of the intervention.

Ufkes E. G., Giebels, E., Otten, S., & Van der Zee, K. I. (2012). The effect of stereotype content on anger versus contempt in “day-to-day” conflicts.  International Journal of Conflict Management, 23, 290-306. doi:10.1108/10444061211248985

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