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Objective: To examine the differential efficacy of trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) and child-centered therapy for treating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and related emotional and behavioral problems in children who have suffered sexual abuse.

Method: Two hundred twenty-nine 8- to 14-year-old children and their primary caretakers were randomly assigned to the above alternative treatments. These children had significant symptoms of PTSD, with 89% meeting full DSM-IV PTSD diagnostic criteria. More than 90% of these children had experienced traumatic events in addition to sexual abuse.

Results: A series analyses of covariance indicated that children assigned to TF-CBT, compared to those assigned to child-centered therapy, demonstrated significantly more improvement with regard to PTSD, depression, behavior problems, shame, and abuse-related attributions. Similarly, parents assigned to TF-CBT showed greater improvement with respect to their own self-reported levels of depression, abuse-specific distress, support of the child, and effective parenting practices.

Conclusions: This study adds to the growing evidence supporting the efficacy of TF-CBT with children suffering PTSD as a result of sexual abuse and suggests the efficacy of this treatment for children who have experienced multiple traumas.

Copyright 2004 (C) American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry