Social anxiety disorder (SAD) is highly prevalent and persistent in children and adolescents. However, evidence for the efficacy and acceptability of psychological interventions for SAD in children and adolescents remains unclear. Seven electronic databases (PubMed, CENTRAL, Embase, Web of Science, PsycINFO, CINAHL, and ProQuest) were searched. Randomized controlled trials (RCTs) that compared psychological interventions for SAD with control conditions in children and adolescents were included. Primary outcomes were the efficacy (mean change in anxiety symptom scores) and acceptability (dropouts for all reasons). Secondary outcomes were remission, quality of life/functional improvement, and depressive symptoms measures. Seventeen RCTs were included in this meta-analysis. Psychological interventions (including cognitive behavioral therapy and behavioral therapy) were significantly more effective than control conditions, with a standardized mean difference (SMD) of − 1.13, and remission with a risk ratio (RR) of 8.99, the number needed to treat was 3.3. There was no statistically significant difference between psychological interventions and control conditions for all-cause dropouts (RR = 1.00). Psychological interventions were superior to control conditions in improving quality of life/functioning (SMD = 0.79) and reducing depressive symptoms (SMD = − 0.39). Given considerable heterogeneity of primary efficacy outcome, a series of subgroup analyses of different variables were conducted. Psychological interventions are probably efficacious in the treatment of SAD among children and adolescents, and may markedly improve quality of life and functioning in this population. However, this finding should be interpreted with caution because of the high heterogeneity of trials and low literature quality.
- Psychological intervention
- Social anxiety disorder