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Tailored Functional Family Therapy Program Shows Promise for Reducing Subsequent Criminal Activity in a Population at High Risk for Joining Gangs

NCJ Number
Date Published
November 2018
2 pages
This is a summary report of the effectiveness of a rigorous trial application of functional family therapy (FFT) to youth at risk of gang involvement or who are already in a gang.
Despite the benefits of helping vulnerable adolescents find a developmental path away from gangs, to date there have been no rigorous evaluations of therapeutic programs that target an urban, predominantly minority population at high risk of gang involvement or who are already involved with a gang. The summarized report, however, indicates that a recent randomized control trial, which was the first for a gang-focused intervention evaluation, determined that it is possible to prevent subsequent criminal activity in a population at high risk for joining gangs. The program consisted of a version of functional family therapy (FFT) tailored to youth who are either gang-involved or assessed as being at risk for gang involvement. FFT is a short-term, family-based program model for at-risk youth that focuses on addressing risk and protective factors. The research team modified the standard FFT manual to address issues common to the gang population. It was designed to include 12-15 family-therapy sessions over 3 months. Outcomes for those who participated in the modified FFT program were compared with a matched control group that received treatment as usual. The latter consisted of probation and alternative family therapy called the Family Therapy Treatment Program (FTTP). Youth in the modified FFT group received more intervention and were more likely to complete the program than youth in the control group. Also, at 18 months after program completion, participants in the experimental FFT group had a lower prevalence of arrests, number of felony charges, and a lower likelihood of being adjudicated delinquent.

Date Published: November 1, 2018