Conduct problems are a range of disruptive behaviours in childhood that are associated with long‐term adverse outcomes in adolescence and adulthood, including antisocial behaviour, substance misuse, and poor academic achievement. Children with conduct problems can vary according to age of onset, comorbidities, and environmental factors, and it has been suggested that certain groups of children may have different treatment outcomes. Therefore, it is important to assess the extent to which personalised interventions for different groups of children with conduct problems may affect outcomes. To our knowledge, this is the first review to systematically identify and appraise the effectiveness of personalised interventions, adapted, or developed, for prespecified subgroups of children with conduct problems.
To assess whether personalised interventions, adapted or developed for subgroups of children with conduct problems are effective in improving outcomes.
We used standard, extensive Cochrane search methods. The latest search was 1 February 2022.
We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs), in any setting, in children (aged two to 12 years) with conduct problems and within a prespecified subgroup, comparing a personalised intervention with a non‐personalised intervention, waitlist control, or treatment as usual. Personalised interventions included adaptations to standard practice, such as parent‐training programmes; other recommended interventions for children with conduct problems; or interventions developed specifically to target subgroups of children with conduct problems. We excluded non‐personalised and non‐psychological interventions (e.g. pharmacological or dietary intervention). Prespecified subgroups of children with conduct problems, however defined, were eligible for inclusion.
Data collection and analysis
We used standard Cochrane methods. Our primary outcomes were 1. child conduct problems or disruptive behaviour and 2. adverse events. Our secondary outcomes were 3. personalised treatment outcomes relevant to each subgroup, 4. parenting skills and knowledge, 5. family functioning, engagement and decreased dropout, and 6. educational outcomes. We used GRADE to assess the certainty of the evidence.
Improvement in child conduct problems and disruptive behaviour
Compared with a non-personalised intervention, a personalised intervention may result in a slight improvement in child conduct problems or disruptive behaviour measured using the Eyberg Child Behavior Inventory (ECBI) Problem subscale in the short term (mean difference (MD) −3.04, 95% confidence interval (CI) −6.06 to −0.02; 6 studies, 278 participants; P = 0.05), but may have little to no effect on improving child conduct problems or disruptive behaviour measured by the ECBI Intensity subscale (MD −6.25, 95% CI −16.66 to 4.15; 6 studies, 278 participants; P = 0.24), or the Externalising subscale of the Child Behaviour Checklist (CBCL) (MD −2.19, 95% CI −6.97 to 2.59; 3 studies, 189 participants, P = 0.37) in the short term. We graded the certainty of evidence as very low for all three outcomes, meaning any estimate of effect is very uncertain.
Personalised treatment outcomes, relevant to each subgroup
Although six studies reported personalised treatment outcomes, relevant to each subgroup, we were unable to pool the data due to differences between the measures used in the studies and the heterogeneity this would produce in analysis. The results for this outcome were inconclusive.
Parenting skills and knowledge
Although seven studies reported parenting skills and knowledge, we were unable to pool the data due to differences between the measures used in the studies and the heterogeneity this would produce in analysis. The results for this outcome were inconclusive.
None of the trials reported monitoring adverse events.
Summary of results
In summary, there is limited evidence that personalised intervention improves child conduct problems, personalised treatment outcomes, relevant to each subgroup, or parenting skills and knowledge compared with a non-personalised intervention.
There is limited evidence for the effectiveness of personalised interventions for subgroups of children with conduct problems. The certainty of evidence for all outcomes was very low, meaning that we have very little confidence in the estimated effects and the true effects may be different to our findings, which will limit the relevance of our findings to clinical decisions. To overcome the limitations of the evidence, large-scale RCTs are needed to determine whether personalised interventions, adapted or developed, for subgroups of children with conduct problems are effective in improving outcomes. Consensus on the most appropriate measures to use in these studies is needed in order to facilitate cross-study comparisons. Persistent conduct problems predict a range of adverse long-term outcomes, so future research should investigate the medium- and long-term effects of personalised treatments. Studies are needed in low- and middle-income countries as well as studies recruiting children aged between nine and 12 years, as they were under-represented in the studies.
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