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Conflict resolution

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  • 1. Family Conflict Resolution John S Moolakkattu Mahatma Gandhi University Rajagiri 13/1/12
  • 2. Conflicts• Conflicts exist when there is incompatibility of interest or goals- traditionally defined as the perception of incompatible activities (goals, claims, beliefs, values, wishes, actions, feelings, etc.). An incompatible activity “prevents, obstructs, interferes, injures” (Deutsch, 1973, p. 10) or in some way makes less likely or less effective another activity.• Apart from contradictions, conflicts generate negative attitudes and attendant behaviour ( Galtung’s ABC triangle)• Latent conflicts will have to become manifest ones before they can be resolved.• Management addresses negative behaviour- resolution addresses incompatibility, and transformation seeks to address all with particular focus on attitudes and relationships.
  • 3. Some preliminaries• Conflicts often serve a social function of acting as a harbinger of desirable social changes. So not always bad ( Chinese word for crisis has two symbols- one represents danger, the other represents opportunity)• Conflicts can be expressed creatively as well as destructively• Conflicts can take place at different levels and the conflict processes have a similar trajectory. Also, conflict resolution skills are transferable from one level to another.• Conflict resolution skills such as facilitation, negotiation and mediation can be learned and practised
  • 4. Modern Conflict Resolution• Western in origin- focus on rational problem solving to achieve win-win ( mutually satisfying) outcomes• Fight-games- debates• Focus on principled negotiation – not soft, not hard• Direct negotiations ideal- but may not be possible due to high degree of mistrust or asymmetry or lack of skills• Intermediaries come in either as facilitators or as directive ones
  • 5. Gandhi• A lawyer turned mediator- believed that lawyers should become mediators rather than promoters of litigation without perhaps compromising on their fees• Litigation- time consuming- parties loose control over the issue- costly• Focus on transformation of conflicts based on a relational world view
  • 6. High Context and Low Context Cultures• High context cultures are collective cultures where individual identity is intimately linked to that of the community ( eg. Indian)• Questions of face, prestige etc., matter much more in such societies• In contrast, in low context ( individualistic ) cultures , people are more concerned about protecting their interest even at the expense of community and are less concerned with questions such as face saving
  • 7. Conflict styles• Competing: relies on aggressive communication; low regard for relationships; low level of trust• Accommodating: one’s needs yielded to others’ needs; preserving the relationship is most important• Avoiding: if we ignore it, it will go away; instead, conflict festers• Compromising: series of tradeoffs; satisfactory but not satisfying• Collaborating: pooling of individual needs and goals toward a common goal; “win-win”
  • 8. Social Work and Conflict Resolution• Case of mutual neglect• The problem-solving approach of social work is closely related to the interest-based bargaining approach of Fisher and Ury• mediation was one area of focus of US-based Social workers- especially divorce and custody• Mediation compatible with SW because its goal is to help parties to solve their own problems- to empower people in conflict- self-management –mark its neoliberal overtone• But mediation is not just another application of social work skills
  • 9. Social Work and Conflict Resolution Contd• Both emphasize• self-determination – elicitive vs prescriptive• Empowerment –problem-solving vs transformative ( empowerment of the weak)• Professional ethics ( neutrality vs advocacy)• Victim-offender reconciliation is one area where SW and CR practitioners come together
  • 10. The Plight of the Family• Family as a factor contributing to societal stability and feelings of safety• New generation problems and the family law-• Of the 23.43lakh divorced or separated women 1.96 or 8.36% are in Kerala• Number of family courts – now 20- casesa have increased from 8456 in 2005-6 to 11600 in 2009-10
  • 11. Family Courts• Many countries have set up family courts• Indian family courts Act 1984 – women’s role especially Durgabhai Desmukh• Most judges are men-gender sensitivity – unattractive career prospects• Counselors – often part time- in TN frequently changed• Some cases, pro-active judges as counselors – not their original mandate• Same type adversarial process – the presence of lawyers although original intention was to minimise it – against the very sprit of informality• Undue pressure exercised on women for reconciliation• An average of 21 visits before a case is settled
  • 12. Family MediationFM is an alternative to a court-based system of dispute processing- less adversarial- speaks of the possibility of binding ruptured relationships -not worsening it through litigation- broadening the space for more options for settlement with the help of a third party.Parties are more likely to honour an agreement that they themselves have reached
  • 13. Balancing Power Differentials• Social Work, being a helping profession can hardly remain neutral- ethical responsibility to support the weaker party during mediation• A number of techniques used without compromising neutrality- organising the physical environment- setting and enforcing ground rules for behaviour- managing and controlling communication between parties- supporting the weaker party to express ideas , needs etc. shuttling between the parties (caucuses)
  • 14. Violence and Power• Violence creates extreme imbalance of power- victim not able to express herself fully- Victim is inhibited from opposing the batterer’s terms for fear of retribution• Decriminalization and privatisation of family violence despite the Domestic Violence Act• Some oppose mediation in family violence say violence will then become a relational rather than a criminal problem. Since mediation is futuristic, it discounts the impact of past behaviour
  • 15. Violence and Mediation• Those for mediation in violence say the legal route will not provide any better solution to the victim, but only exacerbate the adversarial process. Mediation can assist the victim to confront the offender• Another group would say that mediation prospects depend on the nature of violence- female initiated violence , interactive violence , violence caused by divorce trauma etc are more amenable to mediation• In any case, one-off mediation not advisable due to the risk of further abuse
  • 16. Children as stakeholders• Concern for well being of the child – an advocate for child rights• Child-inclusive mediation in some countries• But the danger of children’s views being influenced by those of their custodial parent
  • 17. Mediation may not work if• A person or his/her children have been verbally, physically, emotionally or sexually abused by the other person• One person fears the other person or doesnt trust the other party to be fair or honest• One person is not ready emotionally to mediate• The mediator is not treating either party fairly• One person has difficulty making decisions• There is a power imbalance the mediator cannot neutralize
  • 18. A Final Word• Can we not create a mechanism by which family disputes are processed outside the court system in an informal manner free from the legalistic environment that lawyers provide?• Can we not allow willing couples deciding to separate to do so in a manner that they preserve minimal relations that can positively impact on their children?• Social Workers have a key role to make it happen