Feeling Powerless and Finding Support: Dynamics of Power Perceptions and Empowering Interventions in Legal Conflicts

Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

21 Downloads (Pure)


In this dissertation, I examine the perception of power of individuals in legal conflicts; specifically the perception of facing a more powerful other in conflict. In a cross-sectional study among visitors of the Dutch Legal Aid Desks (N = 700, study 1, chapter 2), a simulated consumer conflict in an experimental study (N = 175, study 2, chapter 3), and a longitudinal field study following individuals through divorce (N = 312, study 3, chapter 4), my co-authors and I looked at the development and consequences of perceptions of power and powerlessness, and the potential of interventions to remedy those.
The three studies in this dissertation show the importance of early identification of negative power perceptions, especially in high stakes conflicts such as divorce, where we saw that negative outcomes linked to initial negative power perceptions persisted, even when the initial perceived powerlessness was resolved. These studies also show the importance of tailoring interventions to diverging needs of those who perceive themselves as powerless or powerful. Finally, we saw that minimal online interventions can reach individuals very early in their conflicts, before they have started negotiations with the other party or have contacted third parties. The studies in this dissertation showed the limitations as well as the potential of such interventions to empower those who need it most.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Twente
  • Giebels, Ellen, Supervisor
  • Zebel, Sven, Co-Supervisor
Award date8 Mar 2024
Place of PublicationEnschede
Print ISBNs978-90-365-5995-9
Electronic ISBNs978-90-365-5996-6
Publication statusPublished - 8 Mar 2024


  • Power
  • Conflict
  • Legal conflict
  • Legal aid
  • Asymmetry
  • Online interventions


Dive into the research topics of 'Feeling Powerless and Finding Support: Dynamics of Power Perceptions and Empowering Interventions in Legal Conflicts'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this