KENNETH KRESSEL is Professor of Psychology at Rutgers University (Newark Campus). He is a Fellow of SPSSI and the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association. He is the author of The Process of Divorce: How Professionals and Couples Negotiate Settlement (New York: Basic Books, 1985). He is also co-editor (with Dean Pruitt) of a Journal of Social Issues issue, The Mediation of Social Conflict (1985) and Mediation Research: The Process and Effectiveness of Third-Party Intervention (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989).
The Settlement-Orientation vs. the Problem-Solving Style in Custody Mediation
Article first published online: 14 APR 2010
1994 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
Journal of Social Issues
Volume 50, Issue 1, pages 67–84, Spring 1994
How to Cite
Kressel, K., Frontera, E. A., Forlenza, S., Butler, F. and Fish, L. (1994), The Settlement-Orientation vs. the Problem-Solving Style in Custody Mediation. Journal of Social Issues, 50: 67–84. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-4560.1994.tb02398.x
- Issue published online: 14 APR 2010
- Article first published online: 14 APR 2010
While empirical studies have generally demonstrated the value of mediation in divorce, little research has been conducted on the specific models of mediation that are most efficacious in such disputes. This article reports the results of an intensive analysis of 32 cases of custody mediation conducted at the Essex County (NJ) Family Court. One-half of the cases represented predivorce parental disputes; one-half were postdivorce disputes. Nearly half of the cases were characterized by extremely high levels of parental conflict. Mediator behavior was assessed in one 1 1/2–2-hour closing case conferences, supplemented by the examination of audio or video recordings of mediation in 62% of the cases. The effectiveness of mediation was assessed by a postmediation telephone interview and by an analysis of court records, both conducted approximately 18 months after the termination of mediation. Two contrasting styles of enacting the mediator role were identified: The settlement-oriented style (SOS) and the problem-solving style (PSS). Mediators tended to use one or the other style. The SOS mediators were primarily concerned with getting a “settlement” and staying “neutral”; PSS mediators were more focused on understanding the causes of the conflict through persistent question asking and were willing to depart from strict “neutrality” in cases where the conflict was being fueled by particularly destructive behaviors in one of the parents. SOS was the mediator style in 59% of the cases, PSS in 41%. Compared to SOS, PSS produced a more structured and vigorous approach to conflict resolution during mediation, more frequent and durable settlements, and a generally more favorable attitude toward the mediation experience. SOS was not necessarily bad, but PSS was better.