A comparative effectiveness review of parenting and trauma-focused interventions for children exposed to maltreatment.
Objective: To systematically review the comparative effectiveness evidence for interventions to ameliorate the negative sequelae of maltreatment exposure in children ages birth to 14 years.
Methods: We assessed the research on pharmacological and psychosocial interventions (parent-mediated approaches or trauma-focused treatments) reporting mental and behavioral health, caregiver-child relationship, and developmental and/or school functioning outcomes. We conducted focused searches of MEDLINE (through PubMed), Social Sciences Citation Index, PsycINFO, and the Cochrane Library (1990-2012). Reviewer pairs independently evaluated the studies for eligibility using predetermined inclusion/exclusion criteria, evaluated studies for risk of bias, extracted data, and graded the strength of evidence (SOE) for each comparison and each outcome based on predetermined criteria.
Results: Based on our review of 6282 unduplicated citations, we found 17 trials eligible for inclusion. Although several interventions show promising comparative benefit for child well-being outcomes, the SOE for all but one of these interventions was low. The results highlight numerous substantive and methodological gaps to address in the future research.
Conclusions: It is too early to make strong treatment recommendations, as comparative research remains relatively nascent in the child maltreatment arena. These gaps reflect, in large part, the Herculean demands on researchers involved in conducting high-quality clinical studies with this highly vulnerable population. The National Child Traumatic Stress Network and the Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics Research Network (DBPNet) are two potentially powerful platforms to conduct large rigorous trials needed to move the field forward. More broadly, a paradigm shift among researchers and funders alike is needed to galvanize the commitment and resources necessary for conducting collaborative clinical trials with this highly vulnerable population.