The effectiveness of a mediation program in symmetrical versus asymmetrical neighbor-to-neighbor conflicts

Elze G. Ufkes, Ellen Giebels, Sabine Otten, Karen I. van der Zee

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Purpose: The last decades, neighborhood mediation programs have become an increasingly popular method to deal with conflicts between neighbors. In the current paper the aim is to 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. Design/methodology/approach: Data for testing the hypotheses were based on coding all (261) files of neighbor conflicts reported to a Dutch neighborhood mediation program in the period from 2006 through 2008. Findings: 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. Originality/value: Past research on the effectiveness of 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. The current study examines the entire mediation process - from intake to follow-up.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-457
Number of pages18
JournalInternational Journal of Conflict Management
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


  • Communities
  • Community mediation
  • Conflict asymmetry
  • Conflict resolution
  • Escalation
  • Negotiating
  • Neighbour conflicts
  • The Netherlands


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