A variety of factors contribute to aggression and violence—and, as we have seen, the impact of any one factor often involves other factors simultaneously. The most effective strategies for reducing aggression recognize this complexity and work on multiple levels.
Multisystemic Therapy One of the most successful treatment programs for violent juvenile delinquents is called multisystemic therapy (MST). This approach addresses individuals’ problems at several different levels, including the needs of the adolescents and the many contexts in which they are embedded, such as family, peer group, school, and neighborhood.
A case study of a 14-year-old boy named Luke illustrates this approach. Luke was engaging in some serious antisocial behaviors. Rather than just treat Luke with individual therapy, the therapist applying MST wanted to understand the family dynamics in which Luke lived. This enabled the therapist to learn that there was a lack of household routine or rules and that bad behavior was often rewarded (with attention and money) and that good behavior was ignored. The therapist therefore worked with Luke’s grandmother (his caregiver) and some other nearby family members to help set rules, establish routines, determine better and more consistent ways of handing sources of conflict, and reward positive rather than negative behavior. This approach of learning about and working with his family and environment along with individualized treatment of Luke produced dramatic improvement in Luke’s behavior and life.