Systematic Review and Meta-analysis: Group-Based Interventions for Treating Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms in Children and Adolescents

Rebecca S. Davis, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Nimrah Afzal, John Devaney, Sarah L. Halligan, Katie Lofthouse, Patrick Smith, Paul Stallard, Siyan Ye, Rachel M. Hiller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (SciVal)


Objective: Trauma exposure in childhood is common and can lead to a range of negative mental health outcomes, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In many settings, resources to address this distress are scarce. Group-based interventions require minimal resources and training, can be delivered by non–mental health specialists, and target larger numbers of children and adolescents. This meta-analysis sought to establish whether such an approach is an effective method for targeting PTSD symptoms and to identify potential moderators of effectiveness. Method: PubMed, PsycNET, and PTSDPubs were searched for randomized controlled trials that used a group-based PTSD intervention with children and adolescents aged 6 to 18 years. Data were extracted for PTSD symptoms and depression symptoms. A random-effects meta-analysis was conducted to obtain between-group pooled effect size estimates. This study was registered on PROSPERO (CRD42020187214). Results: The initial search identified 9,650 studies, of which 42 were eligible for inclusion (N = 5,998). Children randomized to a group-based intervention had significantly lower PTSD symptoms after treatment compared with a control group, with a medium pooled effect (g = −0.55, 95% CI [−0.76, −0.35]). Group interventions were superior when compared with either active or passive controls, at follow-up, and for depression symptoms. There was a large amount of heterogeneity, but no evidence that this was explained by whether the intervention was delivered in a low- and middle-income or high-income country, included caregivers, or was universal or targeted. Conclusion: Group PTSD interventions, particularly cognitive-behavioral therapy–based interventions, are effective at targeting posttrauma distress in children and adolescents. There was evidence of effectiveness when delivered in highly complex and resource-scarce settings and to a range of trauma-exposed groups, including groups exposed to war/conflict, natural disasters, and abuse.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1217-1232
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number11
Early online date19 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 30 Nov 2023


  • group
  • PTSD
  • trauma
  • treatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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