European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 22, Issue 5, pp 269–283 | Cite as

Evidence-based treatments for children with trauma-related psychopathology as a result of childhood maltreatment: a systematic review

  • Laura E. W. LeenartsEmail author
  • Julia Diehle
  • Theo A. H. Doreleijers
  • Elise P. Jansma
  • Ramón J. L. Lindauer


This is a systematic review of evidence-based treatments for children exposed to childhood maltreatment. Because exposure to childhood maltreatment has been associated with a broad range of trauma-related psychopathology (e.g., PTSD, anxiety, suicidal ideation, substance abuse) and with aggressive and violent behavior, this review describes psychotherapeutic treatments which focus on former broad range of psychopathological outcomes. A total of 26 randomized controlled clinical trials and seven non-randomized controlled clinical trials published between 2000 and 2012 satisfied the inclusionary criteria and were included. These studies dealt with various kinds of samples, from sexually abused and maltreated children in child psychiatric outpatient clinics or in foster care to traumatized incarcerated boys. A total of 27 studies evaluated psychotherapeutic treatments which used trauma-focused cognitive, behavioral or cognitive-behavioral techniques; only two studies evaluated trauma-specific treatments for children and adolescents with comorbid aggressive or violent behavior; and four studies evaluated psychotherapeutic treatments that predominantly focused on other mental health problems than PTSD and used non-trauma focused cognitive, behavioral or cognitive-behavioral techniques. The results of this review suggest that trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy (TF-CBT) is the best-supported treatment for children following childhood maltreatment. However, in line with increased interest in the diagnosis of complex PTSD and given the likely relationship between childhood maltreatment and aggressive and violent behavior, the authors suggest that clinical practice should address a phase-oriented approach. This review concludes with a discussion of future research directions and limitations.


Child Posttraumatic stress disorder Treatment Maltreatment Aggressive behavior Trauma-related psychopathology 



This research was supported by a Grant from LSG-Rentray, Residential and Ambulant Treatment Center for Children and Adolescents, the Netherlands.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Laura E. W. Leenarts
    • 1
    Email author
  • Julia Diehle
    • 2
  • Theo A. H. Doreleijers
    • 1
    • 3
  • Elise P. Jansma
    • 4
  • Ramón J. L. Lindauer
    • 2
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Child and Adolescent PsychiatryVU University Medical Center, De BasculeAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Academic Medical CenterUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Institute of Criminal JusticeUniversity of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands
  4. 4.Medical LibraryVU University Medical CenterAmsterdamThe Netherlands
  5. 5.De Bascule, Academic Center for Child and Adolescent PsychiatryAmsterdamThe Netherlands

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