The impact of parent-only interventions on child anxiety

The impact of parent-only interventions on child anxiety: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Jewell, C. Wittkowski, A. Pratt, D.
Journal of Affective Disorders
BACKGROUND: Parent-only interventions for childhood anxiety may be an important alternative to resource and time intensive child-focused cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to investigate the efficacy of parent-only interventions in reducing symptoms of anxiety disorders in school-aged children. METHODS: A systematic search of five databases (inception to March 2021) identified 29 eligible studies. A range of study designs were captured, including randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and case series. A narrative synthesis was conducted. Random effects meta-analyses were performed on parent- and child-reported outcomes and pre-test post-test effect sizes were calculated for uncontrolled studies. RESULTS: Findings indicated a significant treatment effect for parent-only interventions compared to waitlist controls. No significant differences were found when comparing parent-only interventions with other active interventions; anxiety symptoms reduced in both conditions. No significant treatment effects were found for child-rated outcomes. Calculated effect sizes for uncontrolled studies were typically large, although sample sizes were small. No clear evidence was found for a superior type, duration or format of intervention. LIMITATIONS: The methodological quality of many studies in this review (19/29) was rated 'weak'. Only English language papers were included. CONCLUSIONS: To date, this is the first systematic review and meta-analysis of the efficacy of parent-only interventions for reducing symptoms of child anxiety disorders. Our results suggest that parent-only interventions may be effective in reducing child anxiety. These findings are important for clinical practice because they suggest that efficient, low intensity interventions delivered to parents may lead to positive outcomes for children.

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Type of intervention

Treatment and Child Welfare Interventions


Anxiety Problems

Anxiety and Anxiousness


Psychological Treatments

Parent Guidance / Therapy

The organization of interventions

E-health interventions

Age group

Preschool Aged Children (3-5 years)

School Aged Children (6-12 years)

Adolescents (13-18 years)

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