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In this article we examine developments in explaining and understanding "the when and why" of mediation practice - from the "lay theories" that have informed much of the field, to Bush and Folger's articulation of three distinct and coherent ideologically based theoretical frameworks: the problemsolving framework, the harmony framework, and the transformative framework. We then trace the development of the transformative framework since its articulation in 1994, and share the insights we have gained along the way regarding the impact of increasing theoretical clarity and differentiation in the mediation field. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of ideologically based theoretical distinctions for mediation practice and policy, and recommendations for a fresh, theoretically informed, approach to policy initiatives.