Adult Outcomes of Three Treatments for Childhood Anxiety Disorders

Numerous studies have compared short-term outcomes for different treatments of childhood disorders. However, few studies of child treatments have compared adult outcomes. Saavedra et al. (2010) compared outcomes from childhood through adulthood for 67 U.S. children who had received (a) group cognitive behavioral therapy (GCBT) that used peer reinforcement and modeling to facilitate exposure-based procedures or individual cognitive behavioral therapy that used (b) behavioral facilitative strategies such as contingency management (CM) or (c) cognitive facilitative strategies such as self-control (SC). Pre-treatment, post-treatment, 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month assessments were done with the CBCL and other parent- and child-completed measures. Adult outcomes were assessed with the Young Adult Self-report (YASR-the predecessor to the ASR) and adult counterparts of the other measures that had been completed when the participants were children. Internalizing scores on the CBCL showed substantial declines from pre- to post-treatment, followed by steady declines thereafter on the CBCL and YASR for all three treatment groups. However, both individual treatments were followed by significantly steeper reductions in Internalizing scores than were found for GCBT.

Furthermore, the reductions in Internalizing scores during the follow-up period were greater for the SC group than for the GCBT group at p = .056. Other measures of anxiety and depression showed less consistent differences between treatment conditions. Because the groups receiving each treatment condition were relatively small and because ethical considerations precluded inclusion of a no-treatment control condition, Saavedra et al. acknowledged the need for replication and extension of the study, but concluded that their “findings suggest the potential utility of early detection and identification of anxiety disorder in youth for effective short- and long-term benefits, at least until adulthood” (p. 932).

Reference: Saavedra, L.M., Silverman, W.K., Morgan-Lopez, A.A., & Kurtines, W.M. (2010). Cognitive behavioral treatment for childhood anxiety disorders: Long-term effects on anxiety and secondary disorders in young adulthood. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 51, 924-934.