New article on the effectiveness of a new intervention for reducing children’s anxiety

Waters, A. M., Candy, S., Groth, T. A., Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J., Craske, M. G., Bradley, B. P., & Mogg, K. (2019). A school-based comparison of positive search training to enhance adaptive attention regulation with a cognitive-behavioural intervention for reducing anxiety symptoms in children. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. doi:10.1007/s10802-019-00551-4

Many children experience anxiety but have limited access to empirically-supported interventions. School-based interventions using brief, computer-assisted training provide a viable way of reaching children. Recent evidence suggests that computer delivered ‘positive search training’ (PST) reduces anxiety in children. This multi-informant, randomised controlled trial compared classroom-based, computer-delivered PST (N = 116) to a classroom-based, therapist-delivered cognitive-behavioural intervention (CBI) (N = 127) and a curriculum-as-usual control condition (CAU) (N = 60) in 7–11 year old children. Primary outcomes were child and parent report of child anxiety symptoms. Secondary outcomes were child and parent report of child depressive symptoms and child attention biases. Outcomes were assessed before and after the interventions, and six- and 12- months post-intervention. Teacher report of children’s social-emotional functioning was assessed at pre- and post-intervention. As expected, compared to CAU, children receiving PST and the CBI reported greater anxiety reductions by post-intervention and six-month follow-up but, unexpectedly, not at 12-month follow-up. Partially consistent with hypotheses, compared to CAU, parents reported greater anxiety reductions in children receiving PST, but not the CBI, at 12-month follow-up. Contrary to expectation, there was a pre- to post-intervention increase in threat attention bias in PST compared to the other conditions, with no significant differences at follow-up. In support of hypotheses, teachers reported higher post-intervention social-emotional functioning in Year 5 students receiving the CBI but, unexpectedly, lower post-intervention functioning in students receiving PST. There were no effects on depressive symptoms. Further research is needed on strategies to maintain long-term benefits and determine preventative versus early intervention effects.

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