CHICAGO - Shootings and other traumatic events involving children are not rare events, but there's a notable lack of scientific evidence on the best ways to help young survivors, a new analysis found.
School-based counseling treatments showed the most promise, but there's no hard proof that anxiety drugs or other medications work, say the authors who reviewed 25 studies. Their report was sponsored by the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.
According to research cited in the report, about two-thirds of U.S. children and teens younger than 18 will experience at least one traumatic event, including shootings and other violence, car crashes and weather disasters. That includes survivors and witnesses of trauma.
The analysis was published online today by the journal Pediatrics.
Some children do fine with no treatment; others will need some sort of counseling to help them cope.
Studying which treatments are most effective is difficult because so many things affect how a child or teen will fare emotionally after a traumatic event, said Dr. Denise Dowd, a research director at Children's Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, Mo., who wrote a Pediatrics editorial. One of the most important factors is how the child's parents handle the aftermath, Dowd said.
"If the parent is freaking out" and has difficulty controlling emotions, kids will have a tougher time dealing with trauma," she said.
The researchers analyzed 25 studies of treatments. The strongest evidence favored school-based treatments involving cognitive behavior therapy, which helps patients find ways to cope with thoughts and emotions.