SCCR National Conference – Transforming Conflict, Nurturing Human Relationships

By Dr John Coleman OBE


It was a great pleasure to travel to Glasgow in February to speak at the conference on family mediation.   I was warmly welcomed, and enjoyed enormously meeting the team associated with SCCR.   However there was one down side to my visit.  As I came off the plane I received a call from the Communications Officer telling me that an interview had been booked for 6.30 a.m. the following morning with Radio Scotland.

I was told a taxi would meet me at 6.15am to take me to the studio!  I asked if this was compulsory, and the reply was unequivocal: “Yes!”   In the event we arranged for the interview to be done in the hotel, and by all accounts it went well, giving good publicity to the conference.  But it was certainly an unexpectedly early start to the day!

I was pleased to be able to speak at the conference about families with teenagers, and the role that mediation might play in helping parents and carers find ways of reducing conflict in the home. It seems to me that there are many reasons why conflict is higher when there are teenagers around.

In the first place the adolescent stage is one where so much change is taking place, both in the brain and in the social world around the young person that adjustments will be necessary and these will lead to conflict over domestic issues.   In addition the media has a tendency of highlighting a very negative image of teenagers, and this stereotyping is not helpful in negotiating relationships between the generations.

It is also important to note that there are many different types of conflict, not all of them very serious. Every family struggles over untidy bedrooms, or the time to come in at night.   However there are also more serious conflicts, which may lead to chronic anger and frustration, or even violence.  Conflicts of this scale often have at their heart family breakdown, abuse, neglect or mental health problems.

What can be done?   For the less serious conflicts a better understanding of adolescent development would be a great help for all adults living with teenagers.   It is a sad fact that there remains a high level of misunderstanding about this stage of development among the adult population. More information for parents and carers, provided both in schools and in the community, would go a long way to helping families cope with the teenage years.

Of course for serious conflicts, more will be needed. This is why the opportunity of mediation can play such a significant role.  All too often serious conflict has at its root desperate feelings of sadness, of being let down, of resentment and of anxiety.  Mediation can go a long way to addressing some of these troubling feelings.  While mediation is not the only answer, it does have a big role to play in helping families in difficulty cope with serious conflict during the teenage years.

Good luck and best wishes to SCCR!

Watch Dr Coleman’s full conference address here. To find more about Dr Coleman and his publications please visit his website

Dr John Coleman OBE

Dr John Coleman is a psychologist with a long-standing interest in adolescence. He is the Founder of the Trust for the Study of Adolescence, and from 2006-2016 he was a Senior Research Fellow at the University of Oxford. He is currently working on projects to do with parenting, mental health, and the teenage brain.

Contact us

0131 475 2493
Norton Park 57 Albion Road EH7 5QY Edinburgh