Kressel et al. (1980) compared a small sample group of divorcing couples using mediation (n=9) and others using traditional litigation (n=5) to develop a typology of divorcing families. The study identified four patterns that affected outcomes in mediation and led to decisions to litigate. These are:
- the enmeshed pattern, based on high levels of conflict and high ambivalence about the decision to divorce;
- the autistic pattern, with little overt conflict between the parents and a tendency for them to avoid each other and also avoid difficult and painful issues;
- the direct-conflict pattern, with high levels of overt conflict, but not as high as the “enmeshed” couples, and a tendency towards open and direct communication; and
- the disengaged conflict pattern, with low levels of ambivalence about the end of the marriage (these couples had already been able to resolve issues of ending closeness and intimacy).
The study concludes that couples who are most ambivalent about the end of the relationship are most likely to become involved in high levels of overt conflict over issues of settlement, including support, custody and access.