Hidden in plain view: The impact of mediation on the mediator and implications for conflict resolution education

Publication Date01 March 2018
DOIhttp://doi.org/10.1002/crq.21212
AuthorDeborah A. Malizia,Jessica Katz Jameson
Date01 March 2018
RESEARCH ARTICLE
Hidden in plain view: The impact of mediation on
the mediator and implications for conflict resolution
education*
Deborah A. Malizia
1
| Jessica Katz Jameson
2
1
North Carolina Dispute Resolution Commission
Certified Mediator and Attorney at Law,
105 Dartmouth Court, Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2
Department of Communication, North Carolina
State University, Raleigh, North Carolina
Correspondence
Jessica Katz Jameson, Department of
Communication, North Carolina State University,
CB 8104, Raleigh, NC 27695-8104.
Email: jameson@ncsu.edu
Empirical evidence shows that middle and high school
students trained to be peer mediators experience
improved communication skills, increased empathy,
enhanced self-esteem, and improved academic perfor-
mance. Yet scholars have not examined whether these
benefits extend to mediators in other contexts. This article
presents empirical evidence and theoretical support for
the inference that mediation training and practice have a
positive impact on the emotional well-being of the media-
tor. Given the documented increase of mental health chal-
lenges in today's society, this largely untapped potential of
mediation to improve the well-being of the mediator has
significant implications for conflict resolution education.
1|INTRODUCTION
It is well documented that mediation provides substantial benefits to the disputants who participate
in the process as well as to the court systems. Bowling and Hoffman (2003) introduced the opening
chapter of their edited volume, Bringing Peace into the Room, by acknowledging that empirical
research on mediation has consistently shown high rates of settlement and participant satisfaction.
More recently, a statewide evaluation of court-affiliated alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pro-
grams in the State of Maryland concluded that participants who went through the ADR process ver-
sus the standard court process had both short- and long-term positive shifts in attitudes about their
experience, including positive attitudes about the other party, the outcome, and the judicial system
(Charkoudian, 2014; Charkoudian, Eisenberg, & Walter, 2017). Supporting the value of mediation
to the courts, this same study found that cases in which agreement was reached in mediation were
*
A previous version of this paper was presented to the Peace and Conflict Communication Division at the 103rd Annual Con-
vention of the National Communication Association, November 1619, 2017, Dallas, Texas.
Received: 25 April 2017 Revised and accepted: 14 December 2017
DOI: 10.1002/crq.21212
© 2018 Association for Conflict Resolution and Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
Conflict Resolution Quarterly. 2018;35:301318. wileyonlinelibrary.com/journal/crq 301
half as likely to return to court for enforcement actions as compared to those that reached a verdict
in court. Many other studies throughout the years have confirmed that mediation saves the courts
time and money by clearing dockets and reducing the number of cases that proceed to trial
(Storrow, 2017).
There is similar evidence in the organizational studies literature that mediation programs save
private and public organizations both time and money while providing significant advantages for
disputants. In their seminal work on dispute system design, Ury, Brett, and Goldberg (1988) found
that data from the adversarial coal mining industry supported the claim that mediation increased
employee satisfaction, reduced repeated conflict, and decreased costs of strikes and lockouts. Further
studies have confirmed these findings, showing that mediation increases disputant satisfaction, per-
ceptions of fairness, and long-term outcomes even over other forms of ADR, such as arbitration
(Brett, Barsness, & Goldberg, 1996; Jameson, Berry-James, Daley, & Coggburn, 2017; Shapiro &
Brett, 1993). In-depth studies of the U.S. Postal Services REDRESS mediation program have found a
variety of improved organizational outcomes of the program, such as improved conflict skills of the
employees, reduced conflict overall, and reduced numbers of Equal Employment Opportunity complaints
and employment claims that go to litigation (Bingham & Pitts, 2002; Nabatchi & Bingham, 2010).
Additionally, in the context of primary and secondary schools, research has shown that peer
mediation programs provide substantial benefits to both the schools and the student disputants
(Cohen, 2003; Jones, 2004). A comprehensive study of peer mediation in the United States found
significant empirical evidence that peer mediation programs generate improvements in overall
school climate and intergroup relations (Jones & Kmitta, 2000). A meta-analysis of peer mediation
further supports the conclusion that peer mediation increases studentsconflict knowledge and skills,
improves school climate, and reduces aggressive behavior (Burrell, Zirbel, & Allen, 2003).
Beyond recognizing the overall benefits of peer mediation programs for schools as described
above, the peer mediation literature also emphasizes the advantages of mediation training and prac-
tice for student mediators. Most studies have found that students who receive mediation training
reap the greatest benefits in terms of learning conflict skills (Stewart, 2000), using integrative nego-
tiation behaviors (Johnson & Johnson, 1996), applying conflict skills to sibling conflicts (Gentry &
Benenson, 1992; Johnson, Johnson, Dudley, & Magnuson, 1995), and improving perspective-taking
ability (Lane-Garon, 1998, 2000; Mankopf, 2003). Studies have also shown that students who com-
plete mediation training experience increased academic success, enhanced social and emotional
competence, and reduced disciplinary action (Jones, 2004). Moreover, positive mediation outcomes
for student peer mediators are not limited to the United States. A study of Turkish elementary school
students trained in a conflict resolution program, which included skills involving empathy, anger
management, and social problem solving, found that the training increased studentssocial compe-
tence and constructive conflict resolution skills and decreased their aggression levels (Akgun &
Araz, 2014). Another study from Turkey found that students trained in peer mediation reported
higher self-esteem (Kasik & Kumcagiz, 2014).
The foregoing evidence of the positive impacts of mediation training and practice on student
mediators in the K-12 context is clear and substantial. Surprisingly, after a comprehensive search
of the literature and conversations with mediation scholars and practitioners, we have found that
outside the K-12 context, scant research exists that directly examines the impact of mediation on
the mediator. We therefore propose to bring to light this unheralded, yet very powerful and posi-
tive, impact of mediation, with the goal of galvanizing the expansion of mediation training pro-
grams and thereby increasing the number of people who benefit from them. The first part of our
essays title, HiddenInPlainView, is adapted from Travis Pollert and Luke Fraziers documentary
by the same name. In a commentary on the film, Seeds (2016) quotes Fraziers explanation that
302 MALIZIA AND JAMESON

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