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Model Programs Guide Literature Review: Family Therapy

NCJ Number
Date Published
October 2014
9 pages
Based on a literature review, this paper discusses the theoretical foundation of family therapy in addressing juvenile delinquent behavior, describes types of family therapy, and reports on outcome evidence from evaluations of family therapy programs.
The theoretical foundation for family therapy stems from theories of social control, which argue that delinquent acts are more likely to occur when an individual's bonds to society's behavioral norms are weak or broken. The family is viewed as the primary socializing agent for children and youth as the bonds of love, respect for the rights of others, and positive behaviors are taught and reinforced with discipline. When parenting is weak, uninformed, inconsistent, and antisocial, children and youth are more likely to develop risky and harmful behaviors. When this occurs, family therapy focuses on changing the maladaptive behaviors and attitudes of delinquent children by interventions that can include parent training in beneficial parenting behaviors; child training in social skills; and mental health services that address conduct disorders, depression, and other disorders. School-related issues are also addressed in family therapy. Family therapy programs are typically conducted by trained therapists in clinical settings with the parents and children. Five types of family therapy programs are briefly described. Web links are provided for access to descriptions and resources for 20 different family therapy programs. Outcome evaluations of various family therapy programs have found that family-strengthening initiatives have more immediate and direct impact on improving family relationships, support, and communication compared with programs that focus only on parents or children. By treating the family as a unit, these programs are more effective in identifying and correcting the family dynamics underlying problem behaviors and in providing guidance for parent-child interactions. 53 references

Date Published: October 1, 2014