A 12-month follow-up of a transdiagnostic indicated prevention of internalizing symptoms in school-aged children: the results from the EMOTION study

Child Adolesc Psychiatry Ment Health. 2020 Apr 22;14:15. doi: 10.1186/s13034-020-00322-w. eCollection 2020.


Background: Anxious and depressive symptoms in youth are highly prevalent, are often comorbid and have a high rate of relapse. Preventive interventions are promising, but follow-up results are lacking. The transdiagnostic EMOTION program is an indicated preventive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) intervention targeting children aged 8-12 years.

Methods: The present study investigates the 12 months follow-up effects of the EMOTION intervention in a cluster randomized controlled trial (RCT) with 795 children that included both child self-reports and parental reports.

Results: Mixed model analyses showed a larger decrease of symptoms in the intervention group than in the control group for child self-reported anxious symptoms (The Multidimensional Anxiety Scale for Children (MASC) difference 4.56, CI 1.83 to 7.29, p = .001). Parental reports for both anxious (MASC difference 2.50, CI .26 to 4.74, p = .029) and depressive (The Mood and Feelings Questionnaire-short form (SMFQ) difference 1.55, CI .83 to 2.26, p ≤ .001) symptoms in children also showed a reduction. No statistically significant difference was found for child self-reported depressive symptoms (SMFQ difference .69, CI - .22 to 1.60, p = .139).

Conclusion: The transdiagnostic EMOTION program has shown the potential for long-term reductions in symptoms of both anxiety and depression in school-aged children. However, results regarding depressive symptoms must be considered preliminary as only parental report indicated effect.Trial registration The regional ethics committee (REC) of Norway approved the study. Registration number: 2013/1909; Project title: Coping Kids: a randomized controlled study of a new indicated preventive intervention for children with symptoms of anxiety and depression. ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier; NCT02340637.

Keywords: Anxiety; Child; Depression; Follow-up; Transdiagnostic prevention.

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02340637