A systematic review of controlled-trials for PTSD in maltreated children and adolescents

Rhiannon Bennett, Megan Denne, Rosie McGuire, Rachel Hiller

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Child maltreatment is associated with elevated risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can often present alongside comorbidities. While evidence-based treatments for PTSD in young people already exist, there remains ongoing clinical and academic debate about the suitability of these approaches, particularly cognitive-behavioral approaches, for young people who have been exposed to more complex traumatic experiences, such as maltreatment. We conducted an updated systematic review of the evidence-base for psychological treatments for PTSD, specifically for maltreated young people. Fifteen randomized controlled trials and five non-randomized controlled clinical trials satisfied the inclusion criteria. Trials included treatments ranging from trauma-focused CBT to creative-based therapies. Trauma-focused CBT remained the best supported treatment for children and adolescents following child maltreatment, with new evidence that symptom improvements are maintained at longer-term follow up. The evidence for other therapies remained limited, and there were concerns regarding methodological quality. Implications for treatment decision-making are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)325-343
Number of pages19
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number3
Early online date5 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2021


  • PTSD treatment
  • child maltreatment
  • systematic review
  • youth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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