A randomized controlled trial of multisystemic therapy and a statutory therapeutic intervention for young offenders

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;50(12):1220-35.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2011.09.017. Epub 2011 Nov 6.


Objective: To evaluate whether Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is more effective in reducing youth offending and out-of-home placement in a large, ethnically diverse, urban U.K. sample than an equally comprehensive management protocol; and to determine whether MST leads to broader improvements in youth sociality and in mediators believed to be responsible for change in MST.

Method: 108 families were randomized to either MST (n=56) or the comprehensive and targeted usual services delivered by youth offending teams (YOT, n = 52).

Results: Although young people receiving both MST and YOT interventions showed improvement in terms of reduced offending, the MST model of service-delivery reduced significantly further the likelihood of nonviolent offending during an 18-month follow-up period. Consistent with offending data, the results of youth-reported delinquency and parental reports of aggressive and delinquent behaviors show significantly greater reductions from pre-treatment to post-treatment levels in the MST group. In this study MST was observed to have some delayed impact on offending, the nature and causes of which will require further study.

Conclusions: The superiority of the MST condition in reducing offending and antisocial behavior suggests that MST adds value to current U.K. statutory evidence-based youth services. The provision of MST does not supplant existing services but is best used to facilitate the appropriate and cost-effective organization of statutory services for young persons and their families.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / psychology*
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / rehabilitation*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Communication
  • Education / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Family Therapy / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Foster Home Care / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Foster Home Care / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Juvenile Delinquency / psychology
  • Juvenile Delinquency / rehabilitation*
  • London
  • Male
  • Parent-Child Relations / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Peer Group
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Systems Theory*
  • Urban Population*