A review of the literature on family therapy with adolescents 1979-1987

Douglas C. Breunlin, Cynthia Breunlin, David L. Kearns, William P. Russell

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Since the initial publication of our article, significant developments have occurred in the literature pertaining to the application of family therapy to problems of adolescents. A primary change has been quantitative. As is evident from the problem listing above, a great number of articles have been written addressing a continually expanding array of presenting complaints. Similarly, the recent review clearly indicated that a full range of family therapy models has been represented in the literature since 1979. In a general sense, the family therapy models described in our original paper-Psychoanalytic, Behavioral, and Systems-oriented (including Structural, and Strategic family therapy)-have continued to receive attention. It is also clear that family therapists working with adolescents have demonstrated a willingness to experiment with new theoretical developments. Especially noteworthy are the relatively recent applications of Systemic family therapy (Milan model) to problems of adolescents. There is also growing evidence that single model approaches to adolescents may be less desirable than approaches that combine the strengths of several models in an integrated or carefully eclectic fashion. A number of authors have suggested guidlines for planning and conducting family therapy with adolescents. A survey of the various sets of guidelines revealed some of the continuing dilemmas and controversies that exist in the field. The suggestions offered vary according to the authors' theoretical orientations. Of particular interest are guidelines that are organized around such concepts as "stages" or "family typology". The results reported in the various outcomes studies clearly suggested that family therapy with adolescents is a viable treatment approach, one that in many instances produces results often exceeding those seen when other, more traditional treatments are employed. In the 1979 article, we took the position that family therapy offered "new and exciting directions" for the treatment of adolescent disturbances. We still think this is true. Family therapy, in its various forms, has proven to be a well established approach to the treatment of adolescent problems. Finally, we believe this area will continue through careful consideration of three issues: first, the continued application of new developments in the field therapy to the treatment of problems of adolescents; second, further elaboration of guidelines for therapy that are based on particular treatment models; and third, the design of more carefully constructed outcome studies that evaluate the comparative effectiveness of different family therapy models in dealing with particular presenting problems, family characteristics, and stages of adolescent development.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)309-334
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Adolescence
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Social Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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