Better evidence for a better world

Campbell evidence and gap maps

Coming soon – Campbell EGMs are a new evidence synthesis product. Plain language summaries of our EGMs will be published on this website. The interactive EGMs and full EGM reports will be available in our journal on the Wiley Online Library platform: click here.



Learn more about Campbell EGMs

Other EGMs

Campbell has produced maps on other topics, sometimes in partnership with other organisations.



See our other EGMs
Psychosocial interventions for school refusal with primary and secondary school students

Additional Info

  • Authors: Brandy R. Maynard, Kristen Brendel, Jeffrey J. Bulanda, David Heyne, Aaron Thompson, Terri Pigott
  • Published date: 2015-05-04
  • Coordinating group(s): Education
  • Type of document: Review, Plain language summary
  • Title: Psychosocial interventions for school refusal with primary and secondary school students
  • Library Image: Library Image
  • See the full review: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4073/csr.2015.12
  • Records available in: English, Norwegian, Spanish
  • English:

    PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

    Effects of psychosocial interventions for school refusal with primary and secondary students

    Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for students with severe emotional distress increases school attendance but has no effect on anxiety.

    What is this review about?

    Students who have difficulty in attending school due to emotional distress may display school refusal. Unlike truancy, school refusal is a result of students’ fear, anxiety or depression. The review summarises studies of psychosocial interventions. These interventions are primarily behavioural therapy, involving relaxation or social skills training, or cognitive behavioural therapy.

    This review assessed whether psychosocial interventions for school refusal reduce anxiety and increase attendance.

    What is the aim of this review?

    This Campbell systematic review assesses the effects of psychosocial interventions for school refusal. The review summarizes the findings from eight studies.

    What studies are included?

    Eight studies, covering 435 school age participants with school refusal, are summarised in this review.

    The review included rigorous evaluations published between January 1980 and November 2013. Studies, which assessed effects of medications only, or studies conducted in residential treatment centres, were not included. All but one study assessed the effects of a variant of cognitive behavioural therapy, and most took place in a clinic setting.

    What are the main results in this review?

    Medium quality evidence shows that cognitive- behavioural therapy (CBT) increases school attendance but has no effect on anxiety.

    The effect of the psychosocial interventions on anxiety was not statistically significant. The effects on attendance were significant.

    Several risks of bias were present in most studies included in the review, which could upwardly bias the estimated effects. Many included studies did not clearly describe how they randomly assigned participants to treatment or control groups. Therefore, the current estimate of treatment effects from the eight rigorous studies should be treated with caution.

    What do the results mean?

    School is an important part of young people’s development. So it is important to address school refusal to ensure that all students engage with school appropriately. The most commonly studied interventions for school refusal are behavioural approaches and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). The goal of these programs is to reduce the young person’s anxiety and increase attendance.

    The evidence provides tentative support for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the treatment of school refusal. But there is an overall lack of rigorous studies to draw a firm conclusion. Future studies should have larger sample sizes and pay attention to potential biases. Studies should also consider other types of interventions for rigorous evaluation. Assessing long-term effects may provide additional insights for the mixed findings of the effects of interventions on attendance and anxiety.

    How up-to-date is this review?

    This review started in November 2013, and was published in May 2015.

  • Norwegian:

    Click on 'Download PDF' on the right to view the plain language summary in Norwegian.

  • Spanish:

    Click on 'Download PDF' on the right to view the plain language summary in Spanish.

Select language:

PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

Effects of psychosocial interventions for school refusal with primary and secondary students

Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT) for students with severe emotional distress increases school attendance but has no effect on anxiety.

What is this review about?

Students who have difficulty in attending school due to emotional distress may display school refusal. Unlike truancy, school refusal is a result of students’ fear, anxiety or depression. The review summarises studies of psychosocial interventions. These interventions are primarily behavioural therapy, involving relaxation or social skills training, or cognitive behavioural therapy.

This review assessed whether psychosocial interventions for school refusal reduce anxiety and increase attendance.

What is the aim of this review?

This Campbell systematic review assesses the effects of psychosocial interventions for school refusal. The review summarizes the findings from eight studies.

What studies are included?

Eight studies, covering 435 school age participants with school refusal, are summarised in this review.

The review included rigorous evaluations published between January 1980 and November 2013. Studies, which assessed effects of medications only, or studies conducted in residential treatment centres, were not included. All but one study assessed the effects of a variant of cognitive behavioural therapy, and most took place in a clinic setting.

What are the main results in this review?

Medium quality evidence shows that cognitive- behavioural therapy (CBT) increases school attendance but has no effect on anxiety.

The effect of the psychosocial interventions on anxiety was not statistically significant. The effects on attendance were significant.

Several risks of bias were present in most studies included in the review, which could upwardly bias the estimated effects. Many included studies did not clearly describe how they randomly assigned participants to treatment or control groups. Therefore, the current estimate of treatment effects from the eight rigorous studies should be treated with caution.

What do the results mean?

School is an important part of young people’s development. So it is important to address school refusal to ensure that all students engage with school appropriately. The most commonly studied interventions for school refusal are behavioural approaches and cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT). The goal of these programs is to reduce the young person’s anxiety and increase attendance.

The evidence provides tentative support for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in the treatment of school refusal. But there is an overall lack of rigorous studies to draw a firm conclusion. Future studies should have larger sample sizes and pay attention to potential biases. Studies should also consider other types of interventions for rigorous evaluation. Assessing long-term effects may provide additional insights for the mixed findings of the effects of interventions on attendance and anxiety.

How up-to-date is this review?

This review started in November 2013, and was published in May 2015.

Library Image

See the full review

Contact us

  • P.O. Box 222 Skøyen
    0213 Oslo
    Norway
  • +47 2107 8100
  • info@campbellcollaboration.org