Efficacy and moderators of efficacy of trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapies in children and adolescents – protocol for an individual participant data meta-analysis from randomized trials

Anke de Haan, Caitlin Hitchcock, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Markus Landolt, Isla Kuhn, Melissa Black, Kristel Klaus, Shivam Patel, David Fisher, Tim Dalgleish

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Introduction: Trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapies are the first-line treatment for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children and adolescents. Nevertheless, open questions remain with respect to efficacy: why does this first-line treatment not work for everyone? For whom does it work best? Individual clinical trials often do not provide sufficient statistical power to examine and substantiate moderating factors. To overcome the issue of limited power, an individual participant data meta-analysis of randomised trials evaluating forms of trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy in children and adolescents aged 6–18 years will be conducted.

Methods and analysis: We will update the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence guideline literature search from 2018 with an electronic search in the databases PsycINFO, MEDLINE, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and CINAHL with the terms (trauma* OR stress*) AND (cognitive therap* OR psychotherap*) AND (trial* OR review*). Electronic searches will be supplemented by a comprehensive grey literature search in archives and trial registries. Only randomised trials that used any manualised psychological treatment—that is a trauma-focused cognitive behavioural therapy for children and adolescents—will be included. The primary outcome variable will be child-reported posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) post-treatment. Proxy-reports (teacher, parent and caregiver) will be analysed separately. Secondary outcomes will include follow-up assessments of PTSS, PTSD diagnosis and symptoms of comorbid disorders such as depression, anxiety-related and externalising problems. Random-effects models applying restricted maximum likelihood estimation will be used for all analyses. We will use the Revised Cochrane Risk of Bias tool to measure risk of bias.

Ethics and dissemination: Contributing study authors need to have permission to share anonymised data. Contributing studies will be required to remove patient identifiers before providing their data. Results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal and presented at international conferences.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere047212
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 24 Feb 2021


  • anxiety disorders
  • child & adolescent psychiatry
  • mental health

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