Placement and Delinquency Outcomes Among System-Involved Youth Referred to Multisystemic Therapy: A Propensity Score Matching Analysis

Sarah Vidal, Christine M. Steeger, Colleen Caron, Leanne Lasher, Christian M. Connell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Multisystemic therapy (MST) was developed to help youth with serious social, emotional, and behavioral problems. Research on the efficacy and effectiveness of MST has shown positive outcomes in different domains of development and functioning among various populations of youth. Nonetheless, even with a large body of literature investigating the treatment effects of MST, few studies have focused on the effectiveness of MST through large-scale dissemination efforts. Utilizing a large sample of youth involved in a statewide dissemination of MST (n = 740; 43% females; 14% Black; 29% Hispanic; 49% White; Mage = 14.9 years), propensity score matching was employed to account for baseline differences between the treatment (n = 577) and comparison (n = 163) groups. Treatment effects were examined based on three outcomes: out-of-home placement, adjudication, and placement in a juvenile training school over a 6-year period. Significant group differences remained after adjusting for baseline differences, with youth who received MST experiencing better outcomes in offending rates than youth who did not have an opportunity to complete MST due to non-clinical or administrative reasons. Survival analyses revealed rates of all three outcomes were approximately 40% lower among the treatment group. Overall, this study adds to the body of literature supporting the long-term effectiveness of MST in reducing offending among high-risk youth. The findings underscore the potential benefits of taking evidence-based programs such as MST to scale to improve the well-being and functioning of high-risk youth. However, strategies to effectively deliver the program in mental health service settings, and to address the specific needs of high-risk youth are necessary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)853-866
Number of pages14
JournalAdministration and Policy in Mental Health and Mental Health Services Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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