After a crime, victims and offenders have the opportunity to participate in victim-offender mediation (VOM). VOM is part of restorative justice and the goal of VOM is helping victims and offenders of criminal offences to cope with the crime, by giving them the opportunity to talk to each other. Through this dialogue, emotions and needs are communicated, which is important for the healing process of the victim. Research shows it reduces the victims’ feelings of fear and anger. It also heightens victim empathy and responsibility of the offender, which can lead to lower chances of recidivism (Umbreit, 2004). However, this last conclusion could be based on a self-selection bias. Since participation in mediation is voluntary, there is a possibility that offenders willing to participate in mediation differ from offenders not willing to participate – as a consequence pre-existing differences could explain the lower change on recidivism for participating offenders (instead of the mediation process itself).
However, no empirical research has been done on the (psychological and/or criminogenic) factors that predict whether offenders are (un)willing to participate in Mediation. In addition there has been nog research on the effects of mediation on these factors. This is still a black box in the theory on restorative justice. Therefore, no answer can be given on whether the effects of mediation can be attributed to pre-existing differences or the mediation process itself.
There are many different options for this assignment. The student can examine which psychological factors determine participation in mediation or the effects of (parts of) mediation on these factors. This can be done for different kinds of crimes or different organizational settings (when mediation is part of the criminal trial and when it is not).
Experimental, survey. It depends on the research question. An example could be examining if different psychological factors determine participation in mediation when the crime concerns relatives/acquaintances or when it concerns a stranger by using participants who imagine to be) offenders of different crime scenario’s.
Restorative justice; victim offender mediation; perspective taking; restoration moral identity
Please contact Jan Gutteling (firstname.lastname@example.org) when you are interested in this assignment.
2017/2018 Semester 2
Umbreit, M. S., Coates, R. B., & Vos, B. (2004). Victim‐offender mediation: Three decades of practice and research. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, 22(1‐2), 279-303.
Gausel, N., Vignoles, V. L., & Leach, C. W. (2016). Resolving the paradox of shame: Differentiating among specific appraisal-feeling combinations explains pro-social and self-defensive motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 40(1), 118-139.
Shnabel, N., & Nadler, A. (2015). The role of agency and morality in reconciliation processes: The perspective of the Needs-Based Model. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 24, 477-483.