Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Michelle Hughes Miller, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Jennifer Friedman, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Chris Ponticelli, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margaret Zahn, Ph.D.


mediation, narratives, symbolic interaction, intimate partner violence


In my dissertation, I use multi-ethnographic methods to examine how mediators talk about, manage, and process families going through divorce. I show how a dominant narrative about marriage and the cultural expectations of parenthood provide a framework for mediators to manage the discourse of divorcing parties so assets and care giving can be split 50/50. The dominant P.E.A.C.E. narrative (P=parenting plan, E=equitable distribution, A=alimony, C=child support, E=everything else) restricts available discourse in mediation and guides mediators’ behaviors in ways that homogenize families by providing a linear formula for mediators to follow which results in only certain stories being allowed to enter the mediation. Next, I show how constructions about power and violence serve to frame and shape understandings of divorce for mediators, thereby guiding their actions in mediation and discursively impacting the discourses of mediated parties. Power and violence are constructed in ways that conflate the concepts, and no clear protocol is offered to manage these complicated concerns for family law mediators. The outcome is mediators report being unsure and often fearful about mediating cases where intimate partner violence is a concern. Finally, an analytic autoethnographic examination of family law mediation provides an example of the power of ideology and makes clear my positionality within this dissertation. I explore my own identity as a white, heterosexual, female, in a world ripe with expectations about marriage and family creation as I encounter alternative messages and information in my fieldwork. Throughout my dissertation, I uncover larger cultural narratives about marriage, and families that guide and manage people, illustrating the ways identities, stories of violence, and the ideology of marriage are shaped.

Included in

Sociology Commons