8.2 Background of peer mediation in schools

The principle to include a third, impartial negotiator in difficult conflict situations is nothing new and has been practiced in different contexts and times in private affairs, in groups and organizations or in politics.  It is also a universal idea, not limited to European societies. What is relatively new is the principle that it is not the arbitrator but rather the conflicting parties who find their own answer. Normally an arbitrator listens carefully and then offers a compromise. Mediation believes that conflicting parties can come up with fair solutions for their problem (they are the experts) after participating in a mediation process. And this is also true for adolescents. Students can be trained to be able to facilitate a mediation process and encourage quarreling students to think about possible and adequate solutions.

Where did peer mediation start? The first training programs for constructive conflict resolution for children and youngsters were conducted by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in schools in New York City in the beginning 1970-ies.  In the 1980-ies these trainings were further developed into mediation programs.  Since then the concept was widely spread in the USA and reached predominantly West European countries in the 1990-ies.