The influence of referral source coerciveness on mediation participation and outcomes

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Social Sciences


Richard Ratcliff


Referral source, Coerciveness, Mediation, Conflict management

Subject Categories



This dissertation examines the influence of referral source coerciveness on mediation participation and outcomes. Through a review of relevant literature, interviews with community mediation center and state court administration staff, and statistical analysis of over 400,000 cases, this study documents strong and surprising relationships between referral sources and the outcomes of cases referred.

The organization of the dissertation flows from the origins and evolution of community mediation through the analyses of interview and case record data. After reviewing the development of contemporary community mediation, this study turns to the existing literature concerning coercion and volition in mediation, with special attention to the distinction between 'coercion into mediation' and 'coercion within mediation.' A typology of coercive institutions is introduced, and provides the framework for an ordinal variable measuring the relative coerciveness of referral sources.

The dissertation then moves to a description of the data and the research methods employed in this study presenting both the full script of the structured interviews as well as an overview of logistic regression analysis, a method commonly employed in social, health, and biological research studies. A three-part typology of referral source coerciveness is developed, grouping all courts as the most coercive institutions, followed by all law enforcement agencies and prosecutors, and finally, all remaining referral agencies. Cross-tabulations and multivariate logistic regression models reveal remarkable trends between referral source coerciveness and mediation participation and outcomes. The study uncovers a strong relationship between referral source coerciveness and the likelihood of mediation participation, and a moderate relationship between coerciveness and the likelihood of agreement within mediation. Regression analysis demonstrates that as referral source coerciveness increases, the likelihood of mediation increases while the likelihood of agreement in mediation decreases. The dissertation concludes with implications for future research and policy.


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