Academic journal article Education

Conflict Resolution: An Abbreviated Review of Current Literature with Suggestions for Counselors

Academic journal article Education

Conflict Resolution: An Abbreviated Review of Current Literature with Suggestions for Counselors

Article excerpt

In life, conflict is unavoidable. It occurs between two people, between groups, and even within an individual. Conflict is everywhere: in schools, organizations, marriages, and a plethora of other places, relationships, and age groups. How the conflict is handled, whether positively or negatively, is the main concern regarding the outcome of the particular conflict (McFarland, 1992). In the past, conflict has been viewed as negative and not beneficial to the counseling relationships well as other relationships (McClure, & Russo, 1992); however more recently conflict is increasingly being perceived as normal and facilitative of growth (Mitchell & Mitchell, 1984).

The following is a review of current literature (1982 - present) on conflict resolution. The search for current literature was taken from ERIC and PSYCHLIT on CD-ROM dating 1982-3/1994, Psychological Abstracts, Educational Index, Review in Education, and Carl Uncover Periodical Index on the Mainframe at a southern university. The words used in the computer search were conflict resolution, conflict resolution and theories, conflict resolution and counseling or psychotherapy or therapy, and conflict resolution and techniques. Included in the areas of conflict studies are child conflict, and adolescent conflict.

There are however, some underlying themes of conflict that have been noted by Deutsch (1994), which are common to both areas. These themes include:

1. The majority of conflicts in which parties are involved have a combination of motives, and contain both cooperative and competitive interests.

2. Conflict can be both constructive and destructive.

3. Cooperative and competitive interests have two directions of conflict resolution. There are distinctive strategies, techniques, and tactics for dealing with conflict with each orientation.

4. The relative strengths of the cooperative and competitive interests within the conflicting parties will determine the nature of the conflict process and its outcome.

Areas of Conflict

Child Conflict

Several techniques have been developed for use with children in resolving conflict (Arrington, 1987; Edleson, 1981; McClure, Miller, & Russo, 1992; Williams, 1989). The majority of techniques are based on the observation that children do not have the verbal communication skills necessary to verbally express their conflicting feelings and thoughts; they are physical, and express themselves in physical ways (Arrington, 1987).

Conflict resolution skills have also been taught successfully in a group environment. This has proven effective because it allows for children to interact with their peers. Edleson (1981) mentions that groups can present situations more similar to the real world and can offer a wider variety of activities for teaching effective conflict resolution.

In dealing with children in a group setting conflict is inevitable and it is important to know how to control the conflict and maximize learning for those involved. McClure et al. (1992), lists five developmental stages that all groups progress through: forming, storming, norming, performing, and adjourning. The stage that is most important is the storming stage because this is where the children will set the stage for how to react, communicate, and resolve conflict for the remainder of the group (McClure et al, 1992). In children's groups, as in adult groups, the members confront the leader to establish the structure of the group. Because children have not developed the necessary verbal skills to express their feelings, conflict is displayed physically.

An important technique discussed by Edleson (1981) is what he calls "Readiness Activities." This includes role playing and allowing the children to act out how they feel within a group setting. McClure et al, (1992) also addressed the need to allow children physical movement. While members have their turn playing out their role everyone else in the group observes. …

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