The current study aimed to systematically review the literature pertaining to childhood anxiety treatment, to clarify if involving both parents in cognitive behaviour therapy treatment (Parent-child CBT; PCBT) is more effective than child only treatments (Individual CBT; ICBT).
PsychINFO, PubMed, Web of Science, Embase, and The Cochrane Library were searched for studies comparing child only CBT for childhood anxiety (ICBT) to CBT for the anxious child and both their parents, or CBT for the child along with some form of separate parent training or education for both the parents (PCBT). The mean age of the child participants had to be between 7 and 13 years.
Five articles met inclusion criteria and compared a PCBT that had mother and father involvement to an ICBT. Two meta-analyses comparing PCBT and ICBT on the number of children free from their anxiety disorder immediately post-treatment and 1-year post-treatment follow-up were conducted. At the immediately post-treatment analysis, significant and moderate to high heterogeneity was found. No significant advantage for PCBT or ICBT was observed for either time-point analysis. Upon comparison of analyses, no significant difference between time-points for either treatment was found.
Results suggest that PCBT and ICBT are equally efficacious childhood anxiety treatments with no delayed effects. It is recommended that clinicians consider the need to include parents on a case-by-case basis. Future research should attempt to include both mothers and fathers in any parental interventions. The current findings are limited by the quality and methodology of the existing literature and should be considered in respect of this.
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