Examination of disruptive behavior outcomes and moderation in a randomized psychotherapy trial for mood disorders

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;52(7):699-708. doi: 10.1016/j.jaac.2013.04.014.


Objective: Multifamily psychoeducational psychotherapy (MF-PEP) is an efficacious treatment for children with mood disorders. Given the comorbidity between disruptive behaviors and mood disorders, this study examined associations between disruptive behaviors and impairment, impact of MF-PEP on disruptive behaviors, and whether disruptive behaviors affected treatment response of mood symptoms.

Method: Secondary analyses examined a randomized controlled trial of MF-PEP versus waitlist control (N = 165 children 8-11 years old with mood disorders and their parents). Comorbid behavioral diagnoses occurred in 97% of children. All participants continued treatment as usual.

Results: Greater degree of disruptive behaviors was associated with worse mood symptoms and impairment. Between-group analyses examining outcome of disruptive behaviors were nonsignificant. Within-group analyses and between-group effect sizes suggested that MF-PEP was associated with decreases in attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (d = 0.39), oppositional defiant disorder (d = 0.30), and overall disruptive behavior symptoms (d = 0.30), but not conduct disorder symptoms. Baseline severity of disruptive behaviors did not affect treatment response of mood symptoms to MF-PEP.

Conclusions: MF-PEP is an effective intervention for children with mood disorders and provides some benefit for disruptive behaviors. Given that disruptive behavior severity does not affect children's ability to experience improved mood symptoms, MF-PEP may be an important early intervention for children with comorbid mood and disruptive behavior disorders. Subsequent intervention targeting behavioral symptoms after improvement in mood may be beneficial. Studies examining treatment sequencing for children with comorbid mood and disruptive behavior disorders are needed. Clinical trial registration information-Family psychoeducation for children with mood disorders; http://clinicaltrials.gov; NCT00050557.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / epidemiology
  • Attention Deficit and Disruptive Behavior Disorders / therapy*
  • Child
  • Family Therapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mood Disorders / epidemiology
  • Mood Disorders / therapy*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Treatment Outcome

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT00050557