Effects of multisystemic therapy through midlife: a 21.9-year follow-up to a randomized clinical trial with serious and violent juvenile offenders

J Consult Clin Psychol. 2011 Oct;79(5):643-52. doi: 10.1037/a0024862.


Objective: Although current evidence suggests that the positive effects of multisystemic therapy (MST) on serious crime reach as far as young adulthood, the longer term impact of MST on criminal and noncriminal outcomes in midlife has not been evaluated. In the present study, the authors examined a broad range of criminal and civil court outcomes for serious and violent juvenile offenders who participated on average 21.9 (range = 18.3-23.8) years earlier in a clinical trial of MST (C. M. Borduin et al., 1995).

Method: Participants were 176 individuals who were originally randomized to MST or individual therapy (IT) during adolescence and averaged 3.9 arrests for felonies prior to treatment. Arrest, incarceration, and civil suit data were obtained in middle adulthood when participants were on average 37.3 years old.

Results: Intent-to-treat analyses showed that felony recidivism rates were significantly lower for MST participants than for IT participants (34.8% vs. 54.8%, respectively) and that the frequency of misdemeanor offending was 5.0 times lower for MST participants. In addition, the odds of involvement in family-related civil suits during adulthood were twice as high for IT participants as for MST participants.

Conclusions: The present study represents the longest follow-up to date of an MST clinical trial and demonstrates that the positive impact of an evidence-based youth treatment such as MST can last well into adulthood. Implications of the authors' findings for policymakers and service providers are discussed.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime / prevention & control*
  • Crime / psychology
  • Evidence-Based Practice / methods
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / prevention & control*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / statistics & numerical data
  • Male
  • Psychotherapy / methods*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Social Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Social Behavior Disorders / therapy*
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Violence / prevention & control*
  • Violence / psychology
  • Workforce