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  • Publication # 14-RA001

Few interventions effective for children exposed to nonrelational trauma

Child/Adolescent Health

Approximately two-thirds of children and adolescents will have exposure to at least one traumatic event before they reach the age of 18. Some of these children later develop traumatic stress symptoms and syndromes, including post-traumatic stress disorder. 

An AHRQ comparative effectiveness review found only a few psychotherapy interventions that appear promising. The review included 25 articles representing 23 studies and testing 20 interventions focused on the evidence for interventions to help children who have experienced traumas due to nonrelational (non-interpersonal) trauma, such as accidents, natural disasters, or war. 

The more promising interventions were school-based treatments with elements of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). There was also some evidence for promising interventions targeting already existing symptoms, each of which had elements of CBT. No pharmacological intervention demonstrated efficacy. Additionally, no evidence was found that provided insight into how interventions targeting children exposed to traumatic events, with or without symptoms, might influence long-term development. 

The researchers conclude that psychotherapeutic interventions may provide benefit relative to no treatment in children exposed to nonrelational trauma and appear not to have associated harms. This study was funded by AHRQ (Contract No. 290-07-10056). 

See "Comparative effectiveness of interventions for children exposed to nonrelational traumatic events," by Valerie L. Forman-Hoffman, Ph.D., Adam J. Zolotor, M.D., Joni L. McKeeman, Ph.D., and others in Pediatrics 131, pp. 526-539, 2013.


Page last reviewed October 2013
Internet Citation: Few interventions effective for children exposed to nonrelational trauma: Child/Adolescent Health. October 2013. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.


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