The International Journal of Restorative Justice


The working mechanisms of the victim-offender mediation process: how might participation explain psychological outcomes in offenders?

Keywords victim-offender mediation, offenders, psychological impact, working mechanisms, restorative justice
Authors Jiska Jonas-van Dijk, Sven Zebel, Jacques Claessen en Hans Nelen
Author's information

Jiska Jonas-van Dijk
Jiska Jonas-van Dijk, Assistant Professor of the Psychology Conflict Risk and Safety department at the Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Twente University, Netherlands.

Sven Zebel
Sven Zebel, Associate Professor of Psychology Conflict Risk and Safety at the Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Twente and Endowed Professor of Mediation at the Faculty of Law of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Jacques Claessen
Jacques Claessen, Associate Professor of Criminal Law and Endowed Professor of Restorative Justice at the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, the Netherlands.

Hans Nelen
Hans Nelen, Professor of Criminology at the Department of Criminal Law and Criminology in the Faculty of Law of Maastricht University, The Netherlands. Corresponding author: Jiska Jonas-van Dijk, Funding: This research was funded by a Research Talent Grant (grant number 406.17.555) from the Dutch Research Council (NWO).
  • Abstract

      Previous research shows that participation in victim-offender mediation (VOM) predicts psychological outcomes in offenders – such as increased responsibility-taking and victim empathy. However, little is known about elements that might contribute to these outcomes. We hypothesised that adhering to three fundamental conditions of VOM (perceived voluntary participation, preparation, professional competencies of mediators) and three working mechanisms (learning opportunity, humanising impact, a positive and constructive atmosphere and interaction with victims) would relate positively to the occurrence of these outcomes. In addition, we expected the fundamental conditions to either moderate the association between the working mechanisms and the psychological outcomes or to directly predict the presence of the working mechanisms. To examine this, we used quantitative (n = 55) and qualitative data (n = 9) of offenders and mediators, respectively, who participated in VOM. Results offered partial support for the hypotheses. Three groups of working mechanisms of the VOM process were related to psychological outcome variables: the perceived degree of a positive and constructive atmosphere and interaction with victims, humanising impact, and offering a learning process. The prevalence of the fundamental conditions, preparation and mediators’ professional competencies correlated positively with multiple working mechanisms; the perceived voluntary participation showed expected and unexpected associations with working mechanisms.

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