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A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Psychotherapy with Sexually Abused Children and Adolescents

NCJ Number
Clinical Psychology Review Volume: 30 Issue: 5 Dated: 2010 Pages: 517-535
Date Published
19 pages

The authors of this report describe a meta-analysis of the effect of treatment for children and youth who have experienced sexual abuse, which addresses some limitations of Hetzel-Riggin et al.'s analysis by examining follow-up data along with caregiver outcomes and considering a broader array of potential moderators of therapy outcome, in an effort to provide insight into the reasons for the large variability that is typical of sexual abuse treatment outcome research.


This paper presents a meta-analysis of the psychotherapy treatment outcome studies for sexually abused children and adolescents. There were 39 studies included, most of which aimed to treat the psychological effects of childhood sexual abuse. Separate meta-analyses were conducted according to study design and outcome domain, in keeping with meta-analytic conventions. However, given heterogeneity across studies and the need for sufficient n in each category for meaningful moderator analyses, the study designs were pooled into a repeated measures meta-analysis. There were large effect sizes for global outcomes (g = 1.37) and PTSD/trauma outcomes (g = 1.12). More moderate effect sizes were evident for internalizing symptoms (g = 0.74), self-appraisal (g = 0.63), externalizing symptoms (g = 0.52), and sexualized behavior (g = 0.49), while small effects were found for measures of coping/functioning (g = 0.44), caregiver outcomes (g = 0.43), and social skills/competence (g = 0.38). Effects were maintained at follow-up more than six months after treatment for some outcome domains but not others. Studies represented diverse treatment approaches, and most treatments were effective in symptom reduction. Presence of probable moderators of treatment outcome varied across symptom domains, reflecting importance of targeting therapy to individual needs. Publisher Abstract Provided

Date Published: January 1, 2010