Combining cash transfers and cognitive behavioral therapy to reduce antisocial behavior in young men: A mediation analysis of a randomized controlled trial in Liberia

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Carpena M.X.
Paula C.S.
De Mola C.L.
Hessel P.
Avendano M.
Evans-Lacko S.
Matijasevich A.
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© 2023 Public Library of Science. All rights reserved.Background Interventions that combine cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) with unconditional cash transfers (UCT) reduce the risk of antisocial behavior (ASB), but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. In this paper, we test the role of psychological and cognitive mechanisms in explaining this effect. We assessed the mediating role of executive function, self-control, and time preferences. Methods We used data from the Sustainable Transformation of Youth in Liberia, a community-based randomized controlled trial of criminally engaged men. The men were randomized into: Group-1: control (n = 237); and Group-2: CBT+UCT (n = 207). ASB was measured 12 13 months after the interventions were completed, and the following mediators were assessed 2 5 weeks later: (i) self-control, (ii) time preferences and (iii) executive functions. We estimated the natural direct effect (NDE) and the natural indirect effect (NIE) of the intervention over ASB. Results Self-control, time preferences and a weighted index of all three mediators were associated with ASB scores, but the intervention influenced time preferences only [B = 0.09 95%CI (0.03; 0.15)]. There was no evidence that the effect of the intervention on ASB was mediated by self-control [BNIE = 0.007 95%CI (-0.01; 0.02)], time preferences [BNIE =-0.02 95%CI (-0.05; 0.01)], executive functions [BNIE = 0.002 95%CI (-0.002; 0.006)] or the weighted index of the mediators [BNIE =-0.0005 95%CI (-0.03; 0.02)]. Conclusions UCT and CBT lead to improvements in ASB, even in the absence of mediation via psychological and cognitive functions. Findings suggest that the causal mechanisms may involve non-psychological pathways.
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Adolescent , Antisocial Personality Disorder , Causality , Cognitive Behavioral Therapy , Humans , Liberia , Male , Mediation Analysis
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