Youth Violence Interventions

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is another popular but unproven approach. These programs are usually implemented in elementary or secondary schools, and are often offered in conjunction with conflict resolution curricula. Students involved in peer mediation programs agree to have disputes mediated by a peer who has been trained to help both parties analyze the problem and come to a nonviolent resolution. The process is designed to reach consensus, maintain confidentiality, and avoid blame.

Many of these programs have been rated favorably by participants, school officials, and disputants. Although they are popular, there is little evidence that they work. A 1989 review of 14 evaluations found that none had used a randomized design, and many lacked a control group (Lamm 1989). One of the few controlled studies that has been conducted to date found no effects on school climate, rates of student retention, suspension, dismissal or attendance (Araki 1989).

Two quasi-experimental evaluations suggest that peer-mediation may have a positive impact on student knowledge and attitudes (Howell and Bilchik, 1995). Only one has demonstrated a positive impact on behavior. In 1992, Tolson, McDonald and Moriarty published the results of an evaluation of a peer mediation program in a predominantly middle-class suburban high school with a diverse student body. They found that students who were randomly assigned to peer mediation were less likely to be referred back to the assistant dean within two and a half months of the original incident than students referred for traditional discipline (warnings, demerits, or suspensions). Long-term follow up was not reported.