Treatment of maladaptive aggression in youth: CERT guidelines I. Engagement, assessment, and management

Pediatrics. 2012 Jun;129(6):e1562-76. doi: 10.1542/peds.2010-1360. Epub 2012 May 28.


Objective: To develop guidelines for management and treatment of maladaptive aggression in the areas of family engagement, assessment and diagnosis, and initial management, appropriate for use by primary care clinicians and mental health providers. Maladaptive aggression in youth is increasingly treated with psychotropic medications, particularly second-generation antipsychotic agents. Multiple treatment modalities are available, but guidance for clinicians' assessment and treatment strategies has been inadequately developed. To address this need, the Center for Education and Research on Mental Health Therapeutics and the REACH Institute convened a steering group of national experts to develop evidence-based treatment recommendations for maladaptive aggression in youth.

Methods: Evidence was assembled and evaluated in a multistep process that included a systematic review of published literature; a survey of experts on recommended treatment practices; a consensus conference that brought together clinical experts along with researchers, policy makers, and family advocates; and subsequent review and discussion by the steering committee of successive drafts of the recommendations. The Center for Education and Research on Mental Health Therapeutics Treatment of Maladaptive Aggression in Youth (T-MAY) guidelines reflect a synthesis of the available evidence, based on this multistep process.

Results: The current article describes 9 recommendations for family engagement, assessment, and diagnosis as key prerequisites for treatment selection and initiation.

Conclusions: Recognizing the family and social context in which aggressive symptoms arise, and understanding the underlying psychiatric conditions that may be associated with aggression, are essential to treatment planning.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Aggression / drug effects*
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Antipsychotic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antipsychotic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Consensus Development Conferences as Topic*
  • Disease Management
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / drug therapy
  • Mental Disorders / psychology
  • Needs Assessment / standards*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic / standards*
  • Psychotherapy / standards
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Antipsychotic Agents