Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is regarded as an effective treatment for anxiety disorders in childhood. Researchers have begun to investigate potential mechanisms of change that drive these positive outcomes, including shifts in cognitions, behavior, and affect. However, few studies have established the mediational effects of these factors as a proxy for establishing mechanistic change. This meta-analysis attempts to synthesize the literature on potential mechanisms of change in CBT for childhood anxiety and investigates the mediational effects of these factors on treatment outcomes. Seventeen studies met the inclusion criteria. Across studies, five potential mediators were identified: externalizing difficulties, negative self-talk, coping, fear, and depression. Results indicated that CBT was effective in improving outcomes on all potential mediators, except for fear. Mediational analyses showed that externalizing difficulties, negative self-talk, coping, and depression mediated anxiety following treatment. Fear did not mediate the relationship. Implications for future mechanisms of change research are proposed.
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