Multidimensional family therapy in adolescents with a cannabis use disorder: Long-term effects on delinquency in a randomized controlled trial

Thimo M. Pol, Vincent Hendriks, Henk Rigter, Moran D. Cohn, Theo A. H. Doreleijers, Lieke Domburgh, Robert R. J. M. Vermeiren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Background: Substance use and delinquency are considered to be mutual risk factors. Previous studies have shown that multidimensional family therapy (MDFT) is effective in tackling both conditions on the short term. The current study examines the long-term effects of MDFT on criminal offending. Methods: 109 adolescents with cannabis use disorder and comorbid problem behavior were randomly assigned to either MDFT or cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Police arrest data were collected for 6years: 3years prior to and 3years after treatment entry. Using survival analysis and repeated measure General Linear Models (rmGLM), the two treatment groups were compared on number of arrests, type of offence, and severity of offence. Moderator analyses looking at age, disruptive behavior disorders, history of crimes, family functioning, and (severe) cannabis use were conducted (rmGLM). Results: While police arrest rates increased in the 3years before treatment, the rates decreased substantially after the start of both treatments. No differences were found between the treatment groups with respect to either time to first offence from the start of the treatment or changes in frequency or severity of offending over time. A treatment effect trend favoring MDFT was found for property offending in the subgroup of adolescents with high baseline-severity of cannabis use. Conclusions: Across a follow-up period of 3years, MDFT and CBT were similarly effective in reducing delinquency in adolescents with a cannabis use disorder.
Original languageEnglish
Article number44
JournalChild and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Cite this