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  • Research Project Team

    • Professor Peter Fonagy
    • Dr Stephen Butler
    • Rachel Ellison
    • Liz Simes (maternity cover)


    The Brandon Centre


  • Background

    In the USA Multisystemic Therapy (MST) has been supporting families for the last 25 years with young people who are considered as being ‘high risk’ of out-of-home placements, such as foster care and custody.

    Recently MST has been specifically adapted for young people who have problem sexual behaviour, which is called Multisystemic Therapy for Problem Sexual Behaviours (MST-PSB).

    Although the results are very promising, the effectiveness of MST-PSB has not yet been investigated in the UK.

    MST is a way of helping young people and their families when the young person is getting into trouble and are at risk of out of home placements, such as custody or foster care. It is an intensive support service, working with the young person and the young person’s family, education services and community for 5-7 months.

    Research outside of the UK has shown that young people who received MST-PSB were less likely to engage in problem sexual behaviour, to be rearrested for both sexual and nonsexual offences and spend less time in and out of home placements and confined facilities, in comparison to young people who received other community services (management as usual).

    With adolescents accounting for about 20% of all sexual offences and the promising results that MST-PSB has shown outside the UK, the Department of Health, the Department of Education and the Youth Justice Board are supporting the STEPS-B research project to see whether these same promising results can be found in the UK.

  • Aims

    1. To carry out a pragmatic trial that will inform policy makers, commissioners of services and professionals about the potential of MST-PSB in the UK context.
    2. To investigate whether the provision of MST-PSB could reduce the incidence of out of home placements for young people at risk of being removed from their homes primarily because of problematic sexual behaviour.
    3. To also investigate MST is associated with: elimination/reduction in the levels of sexual and non-sexual offending, elimination/reduction in problem sexual behaviours, reduction in anti-social behaviour, less time spent in custodial institutions, improved education outcomes and improved family functioning.
  • Methodology

    The trial will take referrals of families with an adolescent aged 10-17 years old, at risk of out-of-home placement due to sexually related antisocial or delinquent behaviours and/or young people involved with the youth justice system due to problem sexual behavior.

    We aim to recruit 80 families, taking referrals from around 13 London boroughs. We will then compare MST-PSB with services as usual for these young people and follow families up at 3, 6 monthly time points.

  • Results

    To Be Announced