Predictors of Therapist Adherence and Emotional Bond in Multisystemic Therapy: Testing Ethnicity as a Moderator

Stacy R. Ryan, Phillippe B. Cunningham, Sharon L. Foster, Patricia A. Brennan, Rebecca L. Brock, Elizabeth Whitmore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

7 Scopus citations


This study examined the interaction between problem severity and race\ethnicity as a predictor of therapist adherence and family-therapist emotional bond. Data for this study came from a longitudinal evaluation of Multisystemic Therapy (MST) provided by licensed MST provider organizations in community settings. Outcome variables included mid-treatment levels of caregiver report of therapist adherence, changes in caregiver report of therapist adherence over the course of treatment, and overall levels of caregiver-therapist and youth-therapist emotional bond. Hypothesized predictors included race\ethnicity and levels of poly-substance use, externalizing behavior, and youth self-report of delinquency early in treatment as well as pre-treatment number of arrests. Participants were 185 adolescents (M age = 15. 35, SD = 1. 29) and their caregivers. Of the participating youth, 48 % self-identified as Caucasian, 20 % as African-American, 28 % as Hispanic\Latino, and 4 % as "other." Two-level Hierarchical Linear Modeling analyses revealed that for Caucasian youth, lower rates of self-reported delinquency were associated with greater increases in caregiver report of therapist adherence over the course of MST. For Hispanic\Latino caregivers, higher externalizing behavior and poly-substance use were associated with reports of lower therapist adherence at mid-treatment and poorer overall levels of emotional bonding with therapists. In contrast, for African-American participants, higher levels of youth externalizing behavior and poly-substance use were associated with higher overall levels of caregiver and youth report of emotional bonding with therapists, respectively. Results provide evidence that race\ethnicity interacts with problem severity in predicting therapist adherence and family-therapist emotional bond within real-world practice settings and suggest possible therapeutic process differences across race.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)122-136
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2013



  • Ethnic difference
  • Externalizing behavior
  • Minority
  • Multisystemic therapy
  • Therapist adherence
  • Treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies

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