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The Effects of Family Therapies for Adolescent Delinquency and Substance Abuse: A Meta-analysis

NCJ Number
Journal of Marital and Family Therapy Volume: 38 Issue: 1 Dated: 2012 Pages: 281-304
Date Published
24 pages

The authors of this document summarize research results on the effects of treatment of adolescent substance abuse and delinquency through family-based therapies or multisystemic therapy, compared with treatment-as-usual or an alternative therapy.


This meta-analysis summarizes results from k = 24 studies comparing either Brief Strategic Family Therapy, Functional Family Therapy, Multidimensional Family Therapy, or Multisystemic Therapy to either treatment-as-usual, an alternative therapy, or a control group in the treatment of adolescent substance abuse and delinquency. Additionally, the authors reviewed and applied three advanced meta-analysis methods including influence analysis, multivariate meta-analysis, and publication bias analyses. The results suggested that as a group the four family therapies had statistically significant, but modest effects as compared to treatment-as-usual (d = 0.21; k = 11) and as compared to alternative therapies (d = 0.26; k = 11). The effect of family therapy compared to control was larger (d = 0.70; k = 4) but was not statistically significant probably because of low power. There was insufficient evidence to determine whether the various models differed in their effectiveness relative to each other. Influence analyses suggested that three studies had a large effect on aggregate effect sizes and heterogeneity statistics. Moderator and multivariate analyses were largely underpowered but will be useful as this literature grows.

Date Published: January 1, 2012