Money or children? Power sources in divorce mediation


In Western societies, family law has transformed from a hierarchical relationship into a system of gender-neutral equality aspiring terms. Many families however, still apply traditional, gendered patterns in their division of labour and family life, even in a country like The Netherlands which is characterised by strong gender egalitarianism.

In this paper we argue that the division of gender-based roles in family life affects power distribution in divorce mediation as well as the use of certain power resources by men and women. To test this, we survey 60 experienced Dutch mediators and introduce a new classification model for power sources distinguishing between material and immaterial power.

As predicted, in divorce mediation, mediators perceive generally an equal power distribution between men and women, but power bases differ strongly: whereas men were considered to rely more on material resources, women were considered to rely more on immaterial resources. Implications for mediation practice are discussed.


Katalien N L Bollen
Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Alain-Laurent Verbeke
Department of Law, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Martin C Euwema
Department of Psychology, University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium


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divorce mediation; divorce; mediation; gender; power; power sources; work and family


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