Multisystemic therapy in families of adopted young people referred for antisocial behaviour problems

Bronwyn Stewart

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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The number of looked-after children being adopted in the UK is at its highest recorded point. Many of these adopted children have experienced difficult beginnings to their lives that can give rise to serious emotional and behavioural challenges. A primary intervention delivered to adopted young people presenting with antisocial behaviour is Multisystemic Therapy (MST). Despite the substantial evidence base for MST in non-adoptive populations, no research evaluating the effectiveness nor the experience of MST in adoptive populations exists. The aim of this study was to fill this gap in knowledge. A quantitative review of outcome data from 29 adoptive cases across five MST sites concluded comparable effectiveness of MST in adoptive to nonadoptive populations, but highlighted behaviours showing most and least change. To explore adoptive families’ experience of MST, a qualitative approach was adopted and 10 semi-structured interviews were carried out with 11 adoptive parents. Thematic analysis identified five major themes that were service user validated: situation prior to MST, enablers to change, barriers to change, outcomes of MST, and modifying MST to better meet the needs of adoptive families. The study highlighted that, whilst MST can effectively reduce antisocial behaviour in adopted young people, there is scope to improve the experience of MST for adoptive parents by better consideration of the unique factors facilitating engagement and change. Potential modifications to current MST practice are highlighted, including the importance of appropriate training and supervision, sensitive working with adoption, and the incorporation of adoption related theory. Research implications, study limitations, and personal reflections are also discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Simone, Fox, Supervisor, External person
Award date1 Nov 2017
Publication statusUnpublished - 13 Sept 2017


  • Multisystemic therapy
  • Adoption
  • Antisocial behaviour
  • Thematic Analysis

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