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Research summaries and systematic reviews
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Full title: Focused psychosocial interventions for children in low-resource humanitarian settings: a systematic review and individual participant data meta-analysis

Authors: Marianna Purgato, PhD, Alden L Gross, PhD, Theresa Betancourt, ScD, Paul Bolton, MBBS, Chiara Bonetto, PhD, Chiara Gastaldon, MD, James Gordon, MD, Paul O'Callaghan, PhD, Davide Papola, MD, Kirsi Peltonen, PhD, Prof Raija-Leena Punamaki, PhD, Justin Richards, PhD, Julie K Staples, PhD, Johanna Unterhitzenberger, PhD, Mark van Ommeren, PhD, Prof Joop de Jong, PhD, Mark J D Jordans, PhD, Wietse A Tol, PhD†, Prof Corrado Barbui, MD†. †Contributed equally


Results from studies evaluating the effectiveness of focused psychosocial support interventions in children exposed to traumatic events in humanitarian settings in low-income and middle-income countries have been inconsistent, showing varying results by setting and subgroup (eg, age or gender). We aimed to assess the effectiveness of these interventions, and to explore which children are likely to benefit most.

This is the first study that systematically assessed randomised controlled trials on focused psychosocial support interventions for children exposed to traumatic events in humanitarian settings in LICs, and did individual participant data (IPD) meta-analyses in subgroups identified by age, gender, displacement status, regions, and household size. All individual items from rating scales were harmonised for common domains (ie, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety) across datasets using the item response theory method, an innovative approach that enables questions more strongly correlated with other questions (within and across the datasets) to be weighted differently.


Overall, focused psychosocial interventions are effective in reducing PTSD and functional impairment, and in increasing hope, coping, and social support. Future studies should focus on strengthening interventions for younger children, displaced children, and children living in larger households.


European Commission FP7th Framework Programme for Research (Marie Curie International Outgoing Fellowship) and the National Institute on Aging.

Human rights
All disorders
Humanitarian and conflict health
Middle East
South America
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