Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect: a randomized effectiveness trial

J Fam Psychol. 2010 Aug;24(4):497-507. doi: 10.1037/a0020324.


The primary purpose of this study was to conduct a randomized effectiveness trial of Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN) for physically abused youth (mean age = 13.88 years, 55.8% female, 68.6% Black) and their families. Eighty-six families being followed by Child Protective Services due to physical abuse were randomly assigned to MST-CAN or Enhanced Outpatient Treatment (EOT), with both interventions delivered by therapists employed at a community mental health center. Across five assessments extending 16 months post baseline, intent-to-treat analyses showed that MST-CAN was significantly more effective than EOT in reducing youth mental health symptoms, parent psychiatric distress, parenting behaviors associated with maltreatment, youth out-of-home placements, and changes in youth placement. Also, MST-CAN was significantly more effective at improving natural social support for parents. Effect sizes were in the medium to large range for most outcomes examined. Although fewer children in the MST-CAN condition experienced an incident of reabuse than did counterparts in the EOT condition, base rates were low and this difference was not statistically significant. The findings of this study demonstrate the potential for broad-based treatments of child physical abuse to be effectively transported and implemented in community treatment settings.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Abuse / psychology
  • Community Mental Health Services / methods
  • Education / methods
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Parenting / psychology
  • Parents / psychology
  • Social Support
  • Treatment Outcome