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Efficacy of treatments for sexually abused children: A meta -analysis

Emily V Trask, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


A large body of literature has documented negative mental health and behavioral outcomes for sexually abused children (e.g., PTSD, depression, ADHD). In response to these problems, researchers have developed individual, group, and family interventions for treating children who have experienced sexual abuse. The goal of this project was to conduct a comprehensive meta-analysis of the efficacy of psychological and behavioral treatments for sexually abused children. The overarching objectives of the project were to determine what treatments are most effective and under what conditions such treatments work best. The goals of this project included: evaluating treatment efficacy for the most common psychological sequelae of sexual abuse among children (PTSD, externalizing problems, and internalizing problems); investigating treatment characteristics (e.g., theoretical approach to treatment, treatment modality, type of study design) that may moderate the efficacy of interventions for children with a history of sexual abuse; and examining the impact of the participant characteristics of age, gender, and ethnicity on treatment outcomes. To accomplish these goals, meta-analyses were conducted, which involved performing a comprehensive literature search of all relevant social science retrieval systems, coding each study according to a specified coding system, and calculating effect sizes that corresponded to each study goal. Results of this meta-analysis suggest that treatment is effective in reducing PTSD symptoms, externalizing problems, and internalizing problems following sexual abuse, which is consistent with prior meta-analyses. This study also found that longer interventions were associated with greater treatment gains and that group and individual treatments were equally effective. Further, this study uncovered shortcomings of the meta-analytic design utilized in studies investigating treatment for victims of childhood sexual abuse and provides recommendations for overcoming these limitations in future meta-analyses. ^

Subject Area

Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Trask, Emily V, "Efficacy of treatments for sexually abused children: A meta -analysis" (2008). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3323492.