Cognitive-Behavioral Treatment of School-Refusing Children: A Controlled Evaluation

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Abstract

Objective

To evaluate the efficacy of a 4-week cognitive-behavioral treatment program for children who refuse to go to school.

Method

Thirty-four school-refusing children (aged 5 to 15 years) were randomly assigned to a cognitive-behavioral treatment condition or a waiting-list control condition. Treatment consisted of individual child cognitive-behavioral therapy plus parent/teacher training in child behavior management skills. Measures taken before and after treatment included school attendance, child self-report of emotionat distress and coping, caregiver reports on emotional and behavioral problems, and clinician ratings of global functioning.

Results

Relative to waiting-list controls, children who received cognitive-behavioral therapy exhibited a significant improvement in school attendance. These children also improved on self-reports of fear, anxiety, depression, and coping. Significant improvements also occurred in relation to caregiver reports and clinician ratings. Maintenance of therapeutic gains was demonstrated at a 3-month follow-up assessment.

Conclusions

Cognitive-behavioral treatment of school refusal was efficacious and acceptable. The relative contributions of child therapy and parent/teacher training require further study. J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc, Psychiatry, 1998, 37(4):395–403.

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