The ombudsman is an independent, nonpartisan third party who assists in grievance resolution. Ombudsmen have traditionally been found in government, but in the 1970s they spread to formal organizations in higher education. health and business. During the 1980s, the principal role of ombudsman. namely mediator, emerged; and apart from ombudsmanship, mediation appears to be playing a more prominent role in conflict resolution now that it did in the seventies.

Mediators have become increasingly important in dealing with neighborhood disputes, and divorce mediation has taken the intimate concerns of the family out of the public arena, assigning responsibility to the disputants to work through their own problems. A few states have laws providing for mediation as an alternative to the court system, in child custody disputes, for example.

As mediation becomes more widely accepted, professional associations are staking their claim to the role of mediator. The Family Mediation Association draws on members from a variety of disciplines. such as social work. The American Bar Association considers lawyers appropriate mediators in court related programs. In an effort to train professionals in skills of mediation and negotiation, Harvard Law School instituted a workshop on mediation into its curriculum in 1983, and now has a Program on Negotiation

Note on the Author

Nancy Meymand teaches sociology at Bridgewater State College.