Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Ph.D. in Psychology



First Advisor

Stefan E. Schulenberg

Second Advisor

Elicia Lair

Third Advisor

David McElreath

Relational Format



Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care (MTFC), initially intended as a treatment for chronic juvenile offenders (adolescents having multiple contacts with the juvenile justice system), was designed as an alternative to placement within group facilities. MTFC allows the adolescent to remain in the community while receiving individual and family-based interventions. These interventions are dedicated to decreasing risk factors associated with offending (e.g., poor parental supervision, association with delinquent peers, poor academic performance) and increasing protective factors (e.g., effective parenting practices, healthy relationships with supportive peers, increased school involvement). MTFC has been utilized to meet the needs of a variety of populations (e.g., preschoolers, adolescents, female offenders, children in typical foster care placements) and has been used to treat multiple difficulties (e.g., recidivism, drug use, and externalizing behaviors such as aggression and property destruction). Most research concerning juvenile offenders focuses on male offenders; thus, studies specifically examining the use of MTFC with female offenders are notable. Although MTFC is cited as an effective intervention, research has yielded inconsistent results regarding its effectiveness. The goal of the current study was to systematically and critically review the MTFC literature to develop hypotheses as to why some treatment studies suggest MTFC is an effective treatment for juvenile offenders while other studies find differing results. More specifically, the goal was to examine whether or not study variables (participants, intervention details, comparators, outcomes, study methodology) were associated with more positive or negative outcomes. Multiple databases were searched to identify relevant studies. Articles meeting criteria were examined and relevant information related to participants, intervention, comparators, outcomes, and study methodology was recorded. Initial database search procedures yielded over 14,000 articles. A total of 500 abstracts were revieduring the database search, 65 abstracts were reviefrom the MTFC website, 300 potentially relevant citations were identified via review articles, and 15 authors were contacted resulting in 10 additional studies being obtained for review. After full review, 12 studies were retained that represented nine data sets. Due to the nature of the results, the primary analysis was qualitative consisting of a critical examination of study variables in relation to effect sizes. Results indicated there were large inconsistencies among the variables analyzed. Due to the large variability, clear conclusions could not be drawn regarding which variables are associated with more positive or negative outcomes. The current data did not indicate MTFC works any differently with male juvenile offenders than with female juvenile offenders, potentially supporting the claim that MTFC is equally effective for males and females. Potential reasons for the large variability among studies and the larger clinical implications of the results are discussed with an emphasis on the implications for effectiveness research. Potential solutions to these difficulties are offered and directions for future research are suggested.



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