Intervention; Ages 12–17
Effective delinquency program
Multisystemic Therapy (MST) is a family-oriented, home-based program that targets chronically violent, substance-abusing juvenile offenders 12 to 17 years old. It uses methods that promote positive social behavior and decrease antisocial behavior, including substance use, to change how youth function in their natural settings (e.g., home, school, and neighborhood). The primary goals of MST are to:
- Reduce youth criminal activity.
- Reduce antisocial behavior, including substance abuse.
- Achieve these outcomes at a cost savings by decreasing incarceration and out-of-home placement rates.
Delivered across a flexible series of 12 to 16 weekly or twice weekly 60- to 90-minute sessions, the program is a manual-driven intervention with specific assessment and treatment modules that target four areas of social interaction: (1) the youth's interpersonal functioning with parents and peers, (2) the parents' parenting practices and level of adult functioning independent of their parenting role, (3) parent-adolescent interactions in therapy sessions, and (4) communication between family members and key social systems (e.g., school, child welfare, mental health, juvenile justice).
MST has been demonstrated to be an effective treatment for multiple problems of serious and violent juvenile offenders in different settings. It also has proved to be cost-beneficial.
- Antisocial/delinquent beliefs
- Belief in physical aggression to resolve disagreements and violent tendencies
- Developmental trauma exposure
- Early dating/sexual activity/fatherhood
- Exposure to firearm violence
- Gang involvement in adolescence
- General delinquency involvement
- High alcohol/drug use
- High drug dealing
- Illegal gun ownership/carrying
- Lack of guilt and empathy
- Makes excuses for delinquent behavior (neutralization)
- Mental health problems
- Physical violence/aggression
- Violent victimization
- Delinquent siblings
- Father’s gang membership (for males only, but only with frequent contacts and maltreatment)
- Foster care placement
- Growing up in foster care
- Jailing or imprisonment of a household member
- Lack of orderly and structured activities within the family
- Low parental education
- Mother’s gang membership (for females only)
- Parental use of physical punishment/harsh and/or erratic discipline practices
- Poor parental supervision (control, monitoring, and child management)
- Frequent school transitions
- Frequent truancy/absences/suspensions; expelled from school; dropping out of school
- Low academic aspirations
- Low parent college expectations for child
- Low school attachment/bonding/motivation/commitment to school
- Non-normative school transitions (i.e., changes due to residential moves or mid-year transfers)
- Performance on standardized math assessments in the 6th and 10th grades
- Poor school attitude/performance; academic failure
- School attendance
- Feeling unsafe in the neighborhood
- Neighborhood youth in trouble
- Association with antisocial/aggressive/delinquent peers; high peer delinquency
- Leading peers in antisocial behavior and committing crimes for peer status or revenge
- Peer alcohol/drug use
Model Programs Guide: Effective
National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices: Legacy program
University of Colorado Blueprints: Model program
Web site: https://msti.org/mstinstitute/
Curtis, N. M., and Ronan, K. R. (2004). “Multisystemic Treatment: A Meta-Analysis of Outcome Studies.” Journal of Family Psychology, 18(3):411–19.
Henggeler, S. W.; Mihalic, S. F.; Rone, L.; Thomas, C. R.; and Timmons-Mitchell, J. (1998). Blueprints For Violence Prevention, Book Six: Multisystemic Therapy. Boulder, Colorado: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Henggeler, S. W.; Schoenwald, S. K.; Borduin, C. M.; Rowland, M. D.; and Cunningham, P. B.. (2009). Multisystemic Treatment of Antisocial Behavior in Children and Adolescents (2nd ed.). New York: Guilford Press.
Ogden, T., and Hagen, K. A. (2006). “Multisystemic Therapy of Serious Behavior Problems in Youth: Sustainability of Therapy Effectiveness Two Years After Intake.” Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 11(3):142–149.
Ogden, T., and Halliday-Boykins, C. A. (2004). “Multisystemic Treatment of Antisocial Adolescents in Norway: Replication of Clinical Outcomes Outside of the U.S.” Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 9(2):77–83.
Schaeffer, C. M., and Borduin, C. M. (2005). “Long-Term Follow-Up to a Randomized Clinical Trial of Multisystemic Therapy With Serious and Violent Juvenile Offenders.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(3):445–453.
Timmons-Mitchell, J.; Bender, M. B.; Kishna, M. A.; and Mitchell, C. C. (2006). “An Independent Effectiveness Trial of Multisystemic Therapy With Juvenile Justice Youth.” Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 35(2):227–236.
Asscher, J. J., Deković, M., Manders, W. A., van der Laan, P. H., Prins, P. J. M., & the Dutch MST Cost-Effectiveness Study Group 4. (2013). A randomized controlled trial of the effectiveness of Multisystemic Therapy in the Netherlands: Post-treatment changes and moderator effects. Journal of Experimental Criminology, 9, 169-187.
Letourneau, E.J., Henggeler, S.W., Borduin, C.M., Schewe, P.A., McCart, M.R., Chapman, J.E., & Saldana, L. (2009). Multisystemic Therapy for juvenile sexual offenders: 1-year results from a randomized effectiveness trial. Journal of Family Psychology, 23, 89-102.