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Purpose: To review the effectiveness of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) as a treatment for anxiety disorders of childhood and adolescence.

Method: Studies were included if they treated young people (under 19 yrs) with diagnosed anxiety disorder (excluding trials solely treating phobia, PTSD or OCD), had a no-treatment control group, and used diagnosis as an outcome variable. A search of the literature, incorporating electronic databases, hand search and expert consultation, yielded 10 randomized controlled trials that were appropriate for inclusion.

Results: The outcome of interest was remission of anxiety disorder. Employing conservative criteria, the remission rate in the CBT groups (56.5%) was higher than that in the control groups (34.8%). The pooled odds ratio was 3.3 (CI = 1.9–5.6), suggesting that CBT has a significant effect.

Conclusions: CBT is useful for the treatment of anxiety in children over the age of 6 years. However, we still know little about the treatment of younger children or about the comparative efficacy of alternative treatments. Most of the trials were efficacy trials, and have limited generalizability. Reporting of many aspects of the trials was weak.