Author ORCID Identifier

Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Family Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Nathan Wood


Mediation is one of the alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods in which a third party with no decision-making power often facilitates informal talks and listening to address conflicts between concerned parties for possible mutually beneficial solutions (Bush & Folger, 2005; Haynes, 1994; Irving & Benjamin, 1995). When used in helping couples in conflict to reconcile or to strengthen marriages, mediation takes the form of marriage mediation (Boardman, Fiske, Israel, & Neumann, 2009, May; Boardman, 2013). Also known as mediation to stay married, marriage mediation is an approach to helping couples at all stages of marital relationships such as newlywed couples, young and senior married couples, or conflicted couples. Marriage mediation helps address conflict and challenges that hinder couples’ desire to stay married. However, marriage mediation is an emerging subset of family and divorce mediation in the United States of America (USA) with scant empirical evidence backing its practice. Scholars have yet to examine the frameworks, values, beliefs, and assumptions informing marriage mediation.

Building upon the rich literature in conflict transformation, mediation, family sciences, and education (transformational teaching and learning), the present research explores the perception of mediators involved in marriage mediation. Using Corbin and Strauss’ (2008, 2015) grounded theory approach, this research examines practices, theories, processes, and underlying assumptions informing marriage mediation. Twelve (12) mediators, involved in marriage mediation, with various backgrounds participated in this research and were recruited through the list-serve of two national mediation associations and online searches for marriage mediators. Data were collected from participants using an online Qualtrics background questionnaire, two rounds of in-depth, internet and phone semi-structured interviews, a Qualtrics member checking questionnaire, and written resources suggested by participants. Emergent conceptual dimensions reached saturation with nine interviews, and saturation was further confirmed during the second round of interviews. Data analysis involved initial open coding, axial, and selected coding, including memo writing, and rigorous trustworthy techniques like ensuring credibility and dependability through member checking, external audit and reflexibility.

The model formed, called Didactic Mediation, explains the dynamic link between assumptions, processes, and outcomes of marriage mediation and includes: (a) the many meanings and settings of marriage mediation; (b) interventions that occur throughout the process; (c) multi-faceted contexts informing the practice; and (d) stated benefits that mediators experienced and observed. Although variety was found in how each mediator worked with couples in conflict, the trend for the personal and dyadic formation of their clients for healthy relationship throughout the process was paramount. Current practices of marriage mediation are routed in mediators’ specific family, professional, and theoretical backgrounds, including their worldviews. Further, the path to enter marriage mediation was similar across the data, yet it was sometimes unexpected for the participants.

Findings from this project inform skills and processes that need to be included in training future marriage mediators, enhancing literature, and expanding discussions regarding the emerging field of marriage mediation. The need to make the emergent field of marriage mediation known to couples and in the field is crucial and vividly expressed by all participants. Extensive empirical studies are still needed. It is imperative that future studies investigate a long-term impact of marital mediation interventions to further reflections on theories and practices in the field.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)