This paper provides a comprehensive quantitative review of high quality randomized controlled trials of psychological therapies for anxiety disorders in children and young people. Using a systematic search for randomized controlled trials which included a control condition and reported data suitable for meta-analysis, 55 studies were included. Eligible studies were rated for methodological quality and outcome data were extracted and analyzed using standard methods. Trial quality was variable, many studies were underpowered and adverse effects were rarely assessed; however, quality ratings were higher for more recently published studies. Most trials evaluated cognitive behavior therapy or behavior therapy and most recruited both children and adolescents. Psychological therapy for anxiety in children and young people was moderately effective overall, but effect sizes were small to medium when psychological therapy was compared to an active control condition. The effect size for non-CBT interventions was not significant. Parental involvement in therapy was not associated with differential effectiveness. Treatment targeted at specific anxiety disorders, individual psychotherapy, and psychotherapy with older children and adolescents had effect sizes which were larger than effect sizes for treatments targeting a range of anxiety disorders, group psychotherapy, and psychotherapy with younger children. Few studies included an effective follow-up. Future studies should follow CONSORT reporting standards, be adequately powered, and assess follow-up. Research trials are unlikely to address all important clinical questions around treatment delivery. Thus, careful assessment and formulation will remain an essential part of successful psychological treatment for anxiety in children and young people.
- Anxiety disorders
- Children and adolescents