Children and adolescents are a vulnerable group to develop post-traumatic stress symptoms after natural or man-made disasters. In the light of increasing numbers of refugees under the age of 18 years worldwide, there is a significant need for effective treatments.
This meta-analytic review investigates specific psychosocial treatments for children and adolescents after man-made and natural disasters. In a systematic literature search using MEDLINE, EMBASE and PsycINFO, as well as hand-searching existing reviews and contacting professional associations, 36 studies were identified.
Random- and mixed-effects models were applied to test for average effect sizes and moderating variables. Overall, treatments showed high effect sizes in pre-post comparisons (Hedges' g = 1.34) and medium effect sizes as compared with control conditions (Hedges' g = 0.43).
Treatments investigated by at least two studies were cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), narrative exposure therapy for children (KIDNET) and classroom-based interventions, which showed similar effect sizes. However, studies were very heterogenic with regard to their outcomes.
Effects were moderated by type of profession (higher level of training leading to higher effect sizes). A number of effective psychosocial treatments for child and adolescent survivors of disasters exist. CBT, EMDR, KIDNET and classroom-based interventions can be equally recommended. Although disasters require immediate reactions and improvisation, future studies with larger sample sizes and rigorous methodology are needed.
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