Meta-Analysis of MFT Interventions

By Shadish, William R.; Baldwin, Scott A. | Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, October 2003 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Meta-Analysis of MFT Interventions

Shadish, William R., Baldwin, Scott A., Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

This article briefly reviews 20 meta-analyses of marital and family interventions. These meta-analyses support the efficacy of both MFT for distressed couples, and marital and family enrichment. Those effects are slightly reduced at follow-up, but still significant. Differences among kinds of marital and family interventions tend to be small. MFT produce clinically significant results in 40-50% of those treated, but the effects of MFT in clinically representative settings have not been much studied. The article also introduces the concept of meta-analytically supported treatments (MASTs), which are treatments that meet certain criteria for efficacy in meta-analysis, and which remedy certain problems in the empirically supported treatment (EST) literature. The article concludes with recommendations for doing better meta-analyses.

Moses Herzog, the fictional academic whose moniker is the title for Saul Bellow's (1964) novel, once said "What this country needs is a good five-cent synthesis" (p. 207). Well, we are pleased to report that we are halfway toward that goal. In meta-analysis, we do indeed have a good methodology for the synthesis of scientific results. Unfortunately, as we will see later in this chapter, doing meta-analysis nowadays costs a lot more than just five cents.

The development and widespread use of meta-analysis is significant to both researcher and clinician in marriage and family interventions. Researchers benefit from a statistical tool that can be used to summarize the increasingly large research literature on such interventions, and which points to gaps in the literature that future research should address. Clinicians benefit in three ways: first in getting evidence they can show to third-party payers that the work they do is effective, second in having a practical way to inform themselves about the effectiveness and efficacy of marriage and family interventions, and third in a host of specific conclusions that may help them in choosing treatments proven to be effective for different problems. These uses resemble the movement in medicine and public health toward evidence-based medicine, a good model from which to view the meta-analytic literature.

This chapter has the following structure. First, we provide a brief history of meta-analysis, and summarize the key statistical feature of meta-analysis-the effect size. The latter material can be skipped by those with little interest in the methodology of meta-analysis. Second, we describe 20 meta-analyses that have already been done on the effects of both therapy and enrichment interventions with couples and families. In this second section, we summarize the overall results of these 20 meta-analyses, and then present more detailed discussions of the effects of different kinds of marriage and family interventions, the effects of marriage and family interventions compared to other kinds of intervention such as individual therapy, the clinical significance of these effects, the clinical representativeness of this research, and some intriguing findings about variables that may influence how effective marriage and family interventions may be. Also in this second section, we present the idea of Meta-Analytically Supported Treatments (MASTs); that is, treatments that have been shown to be effective in meta-analytic work. Third, we review methodological problems in this research, and offer a set of suggestions for improving future meta-analyses in this area. Fourth, we present evidence about the costs of meta-analytic research, and review possible funding sources.


A Brief History of Meta-Analysis

If you have been around long enough as a researcher, you have seen many innovations occur. Some of those innovations are passing fads, some are interim developments until something better comes along, and some become a minor but permanent feature of the scientific landscape. Occasionally, however, an innovation changes the very landscape of the field.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Meta-Analysis of MFT Interventions


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.