Conflict Intervention as Crime Prevention

Report Author

Justin R. Corbett

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Table of Contents

Mechanism of Impact

Interaction Enhancement

Interaction enhancement is focused on the microsociology of interaction rituals387 and attempts to produce a lasting marginalization of both the acceptance and normative values of conflict-relevant patterns of harmful behavior.388 This mechanism draws extensively from research on the construction and manipulability of interaction rituals, a sort of behavioral shorthand we establish to improve interaction efficiency and signal psychosocial value preferences.

Restorative processes, for example, can help enhance interaction rituals through their openness to – if not overt encouragement of – emotionally powerful expressions. These expressions serve to collectively refocus attention on the ritual violation and its resulting harm. From this shared focus, participants are often swept into a common mood that encourages reestablishing more congruent interaction rituals.389 For many, the prospect of improving future interactions is a key driver in clients’ decision to participate in such interventions.390

Not all rituals will be equally susceptible to the interaction enhancement mechanism. Cases most influenced by providers’ specific interventions are likely those where interaction routines are poised to exert meaningful future influence, but which are not already firmly established,391 those with ambiguous conflict norms,392 and those with serial argumentative histories.393

Once effectively altered, future interactions begin drawing upon routines less likely to favor or rationalize harm and less susceptible to rapid escalation. If successfully embedded, these new routines will reduce the need for future interventions and minimize subsequent contact with the criminal justice system.


387. Collins, R. (2004).

388. In interpersonal conflict, violence is routinized as a variably appropriate/desirable response, and legitimized through socialization and within the broad context of its application (Kennedy, L.W., Forde, D.R., 1999).

389. Collins, R. (2004).

390. The prevailing motivation to participate in mediation for criminal complaints – as high as 70% for victim participants of NYPI’s criminal court program – is to repair the relationship (Hoerres, T., 2014).

391. For example, a two-hour mediation – despite all the constructive processes introduced and skills modeled – is unlikely to substantively alter the interaction routines for those intimate, long-standing relationships firmly rooted in and stylized by a history of thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of disconfirming interactions. Acquaintance-level neighbor relationships, on the other hand, which may have as little as several hours of actual in-person interaction histories, has the potential to be far more influenced by a two hour mediation session simply because that time represents a far greater portion of the collective interaction history. As such, mediation is more likely to constructively alter their future interaction history. (An experience representing 1/1,000th of a collective history is far less influential than one representing 1/10th of an interaction history.) This, along with concern for domestic violence issues, suggest non-intimate, non-stranger relationships may be most responsive to the interaction enhancement mechanism.

392. “In general, the less clear the rules for resolving conflict, the more likely grievances will develop and the greater the likelihood of violence” (Felson, R.B., 2015). Specifically, rules of engagement tend to be more ambiguous when there is less intimacy between the parties.

393. Serial arguments involve ongoing, unresolved conflicts that produce cyclical relational tensions. Those involved in these arguments engage in patterns of demand/withdrawal behaviors that may be susceptible to third-party facilitated problem-solving and its ability to nudge clients from their unproductive routines. Such dislodgement is important, as serial argumentative interactions are particularly destructive to relational and personal well-being (Malis, R.S., Roloff, M.E., 2006). Specifically, this interactional dynamic increases negative health states, including a down-regulating of the immune system (Reis, H.T., Gable, S.L., 2003), and elevated rates of “stress; hyperarousal; avoiding thoughts about the encounter; problems sleeping; high anxiety; cutting down on daily activities, such as work, due to emotional problems; cutting down on daily activities due to physical health problems; and physical pain” (Roloff, M.E., Reznik, R.M., 2008). In terms of relational quality, those engaging in serial arguments report lower estimates that the argument will ever be resolved, less civility of the of the interaction, greater feelings of persecution, and more negative estimates of the conflict’s effects on the relationship (Hample, D., Richards, A., 2015).