Meta-analysis of randomized, controlled treatment trials for pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder


  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared.

Hunna Watson, School of Psychology, Curtin University of Technology, GPO BOX U1987, Perth WA 6845, Australia; Tel: +61892663523; Fax: +61892662464; Email:


Objective:  To conduct a meta-analysis on randomized, controlled treatment trials of pediatric obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Method:  Studies were included if they employed randomized, controlled methodology and treated young people (19 years or under) with OCD. A comprehensive literature search identified 13 RCTs containing 10 pharmacotherapy to control comparisons (N = 1016) and five cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to control comparisons (N = 161).

Results:  Random effects modeling yielded statistically significant pooled effect size (ES) estimates for pharmacotherapy (ES = .48, 95% CI = .36 to .61, p < .00001) and CBT (ES = 1.45, 95% CI = .68 to 2.22, p = .002). The results were robust to publication bias.

Conclusions:  This is the first meta-analysis of treatment RCTs for pediatric OCD. CBT and pharmacotherapy were the only treatments effective beyond control in alleviating OCD symptoms. CBT showed a greater ES than pharmacotherapy. Previous meta-analyses that included uncontrolled trials exaggerated the efficacy of both treatments.