Efficacy of psychological interventions for post-traumatic stress disorder in children and adolescents exposed to single versus multiple traumas: meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials

Thole H. Hoppen, Richard Meiser-Stedman, Tine K. Jensen, Marianne Skogbrott Birkeland, Nexhmedin Morina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
10 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Previous meta-analyses of psychotherapies for children and adolescents with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) did not investigate whether treatment efficacy is diminished when patients report multiple (versus single) traumas.

Aims: To examine whether efficacy of psychological interventions for paediatric PTSD is diminished when patients report multiple (versus single) traumas.

Method: We systematically searched PsycInfo, MEDLINE, Web of Science and PTSDpubs on 21 April 2022 and included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) meeting the following criteria: (a) random allocation; (b) all participants presented with partial or full PTSD; (c) PTSD is the primary treatment focus; (d) sample mean age <19 years; (e) sample size n ≥ 20. Trauma frequency was analysed as a dichotomous (single versus ≥2 traumas) and continuous (mean number of exposures) potential moderator of efficacy.

Results: Of the 57 eligible RCTs (n = 4295), 51 RCTs were included in quantitative analyses. Relative to passive control conditions, interventions were found effective for single-trauma-related PTSD (Hedges’ g = 1.09; 95% CI 0.70–1.48; k = 8 trials) and multiple-trauma-related PTSD (g = 1.11; 95% CI 0.74–1.47; k = 12). Psychotherapies were also more effective than active control conditions in reducing multiple-trauma-related PTSD. Comparison with active control conditions regarding single-event PTSD was not possible owing to scarcity (k = 1) of available trials. Efficacy did not differ with trauma exposure frequency irrespective of its operationalisation and subgroup analyses (e.g. trauma-focused cognitive–behavioural therapy only).

Conclusions: The current evidence base suggests that psychological interventions for paediatric PTSD can effectively treat PTSD in populations reporting single and multiple traumas. Future trials for PTSD following single-event trauma need to involve active control conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)196-203
Number of pages8
JournalThe British Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number5
Early online date1 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2023


  • PTSD
  • efficacy
  • meta-analysis
  • multiple trauma
  • psychological intervention

Cite this