Efficacy of Child Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions for Antisocial Behavior: A Meta-Analysis

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NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 65 describes the following:

Title | Efficacy of Child Cognitive-Behavioral Interventions for Antisocial Behavior: A Meta-Analysis

Author | Bennett, D.S., & Gibbons, T.A.

SourceChild and Family Behavior Therapy, 22(1), 1-15.

Year Published | 2000

This meta-analysis reviewed 30 studies comparing child-based cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for antisocial behavior. Results showed that child-based CBT interventions had a small to moderate effect in decreasing antisocial behavior. Future research directions, including the integration of individual training into group therapy and the examination of antisocial behavior subtypes, are discussed. (ERIC: Author/MKA)

Antisocial behavior continues to be the most prevalent problem seen by clinicians in child mental health settings, accounting for between one third and one half of all clinic referrals (Kazdin, 1995). Subsequent to the development of cognitive-behavioral anger control programs used with adults (e.g., Novaco, 1975), child-based cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) has been increasingly used to try to decrease children’s antisocial behavior. Prior meta-analyses have not focused on the efficacy of child-based CBT interventions for antisocial behavior.

Research Questions
How effective are child-based CBT interventions compared to no-treatment, attention, and wait-list controls? What are the factors that may predict the efficacy of child CBT, namely: presence of specific CBT components; child age; use of a clinical vs. nonclinical sample; total number of sessions; number of sessions per week; session length; type of control group; source of outcome ratings; publication year; and quality of the study?

Research Design

  • Number of Studies Included | 30
  • Number of Subjects | NA
  • Years Spanned | 1974-1998

Research Subjects
People age 18 and younger who exhibit antisocial behavior

Age/Grade of Subjects
Age 18 and younger

Specified Disability
Antisocial behavior

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Duration of Intervention
Varied across included studies

Study quality was negatively correlated with post-treatment effect size. A trend was found for child age to correlate positively with post-treatment effect size, suggesting that current child-based CBT interventions are more effective for adolescents and older elementary school-aged children than for younger elementary-school aged children. Treatment components, number of sessions, session length, sessions per week, use of a clinical vs. nonclinical sample, type of control group, source of outcomes ratings and publication year were unrelated to treatment efficacy.

Combined Effects Size
The mean effect size d of CBT interventions was 0.48 (median=0.26) unweighted and 0.23 weighted at post-treatment. The mean effect size at follow-up was 0.66 (median=0.32) unweighed and 0.51 weighted.

Future research directions need to include the integration of individual training into group therapy and the examination of antisocial behavior subtypes (i.e. reactive vs. proactive).


* Meta-Analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.

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