About two-thirds of children and adolescents younger than 18 years will experience at least one traumatic event, such as an accident, natural or man-made disaster, war, accident or school shooting. But little evidence exists on the best way to help those children recover and avoid long-term, negative consequences, according to a study sponsored by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in the March 2013 Pediatrics. The study, “Comparative Effectiveness of Interventions for Children Exposed to Nonrelational Traumatic Events,” published online Feb. 11, conducted an evidence review of existing research on traumatic stress disorders in children and psychological and pharmacological therapies. The studies described a wide variety of psychotherapeutic interventions. Only a few psychological treatments were shown to help children in the short term; no medications were shown to have benefit. No studies attempted to replicate findings of effective interventions, and none provided insight into how therapeutic interventions may influence children’s long-term development. The findings of this study should serve as a call to action, according to the authors. Far more research is needed to provide definitive guidance on providing treatment to children exposed to traumatic events.
Editor’s note: This issue of Pediatrics also includes a related commentary, “Prevention and Treatment of Traumatic Stress in Children: Few Answers, Many Questions.”
The American Academy of Pediatrics is an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and young adults. (www.aap.org)