Objective To evaluate empirically the effectiveness of a cognitive–behavioural treatment programme for children with conduct disorder and concomitant anxiety or mood disorders.
Method Participants included 46 children in 2005 (40 boys and six girls, M = 9.8 years; SD 1.7) and 36 children in 2006 (30 boys and six girls, M = 10.4 years; SD 1.4). The children were referred by school personnel to a community mental health treatment centre to participate in a cognitive–behaviour-based programme. The goals of the programme included: teaching children how to manage anger, control their impulsivity, think about the consequences of their behaviour and otherwise develop more socially appropriate behaviours. Outcome measures included: degree of externalised symptoms (aggressiveness, opposition, hyperactivity and attention), internalised symptoms (anxiety and depression) and adjustment problems (social and school performance) and clinical judgement of goal attainment leading to discharge from the agency (or referred to another service).
Results In 2005, 26 children (56.5%) were found to have achieved programme goals. Programme attendance was significantly associated with a decrease in externalised symptoms (T = 3.2, p<0.01), internalised symptoms (T = 2.6, p<0.05) and social problems (T = 4.9, p<0.0001). In 2006, 22 children (61%) succeeded. Programme attendance was significantly associated with a decrease in attention problems (T = 2.5, p<0.05), oppositional defiant symptoms (T = 2.1, p<0.05) and total number of problem behaviours (T = 5.3, p<0.0001). As a group, children referred in the 2005 programme showed more severe symptoms than those who participated in the 2006 intervention.
Conclusion Cognitive–behavioural family intervention has beneficial effects on reducing symptoms in children with conduct disorder.