Addressing Sensitive Issues in Family Mediation: An Albanian Study of Mediator Perceptions
Keywords:family mediation, conflict, dispute resolution, sensitive issues, mandatory, child inclusion1.
AbstractFamily mediation is proposed as an alternative approach to conflict resolution, whereby two or more parties to a dispute attempt by themselves, on a voluntary basis, to reach an agreement on the settlement of their dispute with the assistance of a mediator. The objective of this qualitative study was to explore the way mediators address salient issues in mediation, and how it may have an impact on resolving family disputes. The study focused on which are the mediators’ perceptions with respect to a range of sensitive issues in mediation process; with regard to sensitive controversy how do mediators identify the needs of mandatory mediation; how mediators consider the inclusion of children in family mediation process; how mediators position themselves in issues such as child and spousal abuse situations in relation to mandatory mediation; and finally, what are the mediators perception with regard to issues linked to pathological behavior from the part of the disputants in relation to mandatory mediation. Consistent with a qualitative approach, semi-structured interviews were chosen to access the actual experience of mediators. The sampling frame was purposive in the study. Furthermore, the sample consisted of interviews with twenty mediators drawn from the Albanian National Chamber of Mediators. Regarding the debate whether mandatory mediation is one of these successful practices for solving family disputes in contrast to voluntary mediation, the findings suggest that most of mediators agree that mediation should only be on a voluntary basis. Most of them disagree with mandatory mediation, since it may have a negative impact on mediation, where possible manifested physical or psychological abuse is screened during mediation sessions. The findings also reveal that most of mediators are not in favor of mandatory mediation, since it may contribute to the failure of mediation, especially where dispute cases related to pathological behavior from the part of one of the disputants is identified during mediation. Furthermore, the decision on whether to include children or not in the mediation process is linked to context, expertise, professional experience from the part of the mediator, and other related factors. As opposed to including children in mediation, most of mediators in the study listed that children should not be included in the mediation process for the following reasons such as, the unwillingness of parents to include children in mediation, the age of the child, and the psychological/emotional state of children. In conclusion, the findings show that the way family mediators address sensitive issues in the field is not only related to mediator’s competence of working methods, but it is also linked to nature of conflict, and disputants’ individual characteristics. However, further research is needed to determine the effectiveness of family mediation in Albania with regard to models of practice, techniques, strategies, and salient issues in the field.
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