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Have a troubled teen? Why you need treatment, too


It takes a village to raise a child -- and to keep that child out of trouble.

Psychological sciences professor Charles Borduin of the University of Missouri developed a form of treatment for juvenile offenders more than 20 years ago that involved having therapists work with the children's entire families and communities, instead of traditional, individual counseling.

In a new study, he has quantified the long-term benefits of his approach, called Multisystemic Therapy (MST).

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His latest research follows up on an original study he conducted from 1983 to 1986, which examined 176 juvenile offenders, some of whom were treated with MST and others given individual therapy.

Twenty-two years after they were treated, he found 4.3 per cent of those given MST had been arrested for violent felonies, compared with 15.5 percent who had received individual therapy.

Of the MST group, 34.8 percent had committed a felony of any kind, compared with 54.8 percent of those who had individual treatment. And those who had individual treatment were involved in family-related civil suits more than two times more often.

"This research shows that Multisystemic Therapy has long-lasting effects," Prof. Borduin said in a press release. "Nearly 22 years after the treatment, juvenile offenders treated with MST still see positive effects. This treatment has protected many potential victims, and I hope this research helps to encourage further use of the method."

In the earlier study, Prof. Borduin had found treating an offender with MST could save taxpayers and crime victims between around $75,000 to nearly $200,000 in 14 years. According to the press release, he intends to examine the savings over a 22-year period.

Should families of troubled youngsters be required to work with therapists too?

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About the Author

Wency Leung is a general assignment reporter for the Life section. Before joining The Globe in early 2010, she has worked as a reporter in Vancouver, Prague, and Phnom Penh. More

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