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CBT for children with depressive symptoms: a meta-analysis

, : CBT for children with depressive symptoms: a meta-analysis. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy 43(4): 275-288

Pediatric depression entails a higher risk for psychiatric disorders, somatic complaints, suicide, and functional impairment later in life. Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) is recommended for the treatment of depression in children, yet research is based primarily on adolescents. The present meta-analysis investigated the efficacy of CBT in children aged 8-12 years with regard to depressive symptoms. We included randomized controlled trials of CBT with participants who had an average age of  ≤ 12 years and were diagnosed with either depression or reported elevated depressive symptoms. The search resulted in 10 randomized controlled trials with 267 participants in intervention and 256 in comparison groups. The mean age of participants was 10.5 years. The weighted between-group effect size for CBT was moderate, Cohen's d = 0.66. CBT outperformed both attention placebo and wait-list, although there was a significant heterogeneity among studies with regard to effect sizes. The weighted within-group effect size for CBT was large, d = 1.02. Earlier publication year, older participants, and more treatment sessions were associated with a larger effect size. In conclusion, the efficacy of CBT in the treatment of pediatric depression symptoms was supported. Differences in efficacy, methodological shortcomings, and lack of follow-up data limit the present study and indicate areas in need of improvement.


PMID: 25248459

DOI: 10.1080/16506073.2014.947316

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