Early Intervention for Adolescent Substance Abuse: Pretreatment to Posttreatment Outcomes of a Randomized Clinical Trial Comparing Multidimensional Family Therapy and Peer Group Treatment

Howard A Liddle, Cynthia L Rowe, Gayle A Dakof, Rocio A. Ungaro, Craig E. Henderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

129 Scopus citations


This randomized clinical trial evaluated a family-based therapy (Multidimensional Family Therapy, MDFT; Liddle 2002a) and a peer group therapy with 80 urban, low-income. and ethnically diverse young adolescents (11 to 15 years) referred for substance abuse and behavioral problems. Both treatments were outpatient, relatively brief, manual-guided, equal in intervention dose, and delivered by community drug treatment therapists. Adolescents and their parents were assessed at intake to treatment, randomly assigned to either MDFT or group therapy, and reassessed at six weeks after intake and at discharge. Results indicated that the family-based treatment (MDFT, an intervention that targets teen and parent functioning within and across multiple systems on a variety of risk and protective factors) was significantly more effective than peer group therapy in reducing risk and promoting protective processes in the individual, family, peer, and school domains, as well as in reducing substance use over the course of treatment. These results, which add to the body of previous findings about the clinical and cost effectiveness of MDFT, support the clinical effectiveness and dissemination potential of this family-based, multisystem and developmentally-oriented intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)49-63
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Psychoactive Drugs
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2004



  • Adolescent
  • MDFT
  • Multidimensional Family Therapy
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Clinical Psychology

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