Conflict engagement: A contingency model in theory and practice

Jay Rothman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The systematic study and applied practice of conflict resolution is now a few decades old and is evolving into its own field and perhaps towards its own discipline (Avruch, 2013). I believe an essential way forward towards a more robust field and discipline is to build a parsimonious contingency approach. That is, an approach for applying our best theoretical and analytical tools to diagnosing the nature and status of a given conflict and then systematically and adaptively matching up the best methods for constructively engaging the conflict as it evolves. Fisher and Keashly (1991) pioneered contingency theory in international conflict resolution, while Sander and Goldberg suggested "fitting the forum to the fuss" in domestic ADR a few years later (1994). Since then the notion has caught on and is now somewhat in "vogue" (Fisher, 2012). However, surprisingly little development has occurred in this arena given the promise it holds. The contingency model described in this article builds on this early theorizing and suggests different conflict intervention methods according to conflict type and stage of development. Conflicts are divided into three different types: resource-based, objectives-based and identity-based. Each type is conducive to a different mode of engagement.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)104-116
Number of pages13
JournalPeace and Conflict Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Sep 2014


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