Family Therapy as a Treatment for Children: A Critical Review of Outcome Research

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The value of family therapy as a treatment for child psychopathology is considered by reviewing pertinent outcome research. Fourteen studies that met three criteria are included in the review: (a) a child or adolescent was the identified patient or referral; (b) therapy included at least one parent and the child; and (c) outcome was evaluated in terms of the child's symptoms. There are major shortcomings in most of the available data, with only two well‐controlled studies. Some empirical evidence does exist that family therapy is an effective treatment for children; the data from studies of adolescents are especially encouraging. However, insufficient data are available for comparing the relative merits of conjoint family treatment and individual child therapy. If the value of family therapy as a treatment alternative or, ideally, as the “treatment of choice” for a referred individual child is to be established, more and better controlled comparative outcome studies will be necessary. Suggestions for future research are presented emphasizing the need for a developmental perspective by recommending, for example, the use of factorial designs in which the interaction of treatment and age can be analyzed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)323-335
Number of pages13
JournalFamily process
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1979


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