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J Abnorm Child Psychol. 1990 Dec;18(6):639-70.

The impact of methodological factors on child psychotherapy outcome research: a meta-analysis for researchers.

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  • 1Department of Psychology and Human Development, Peabody College, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee 37203.


Two recent meta-analyses have generated evidence for child and adolescent psychotherapy effects. However, critics note that such meta-analyses often include studies with methodological shortcomings which might invalidate their results. In the present study, we explored whether the results of the most extensive child/adolescent meta-analysis might have been influenced by such methodological variables, focusing on internal validity and external validity factors. Together, these factors accounted for two-thirds as much variance as the substantive factors (e.g., type of therapy, age) in the original meta-analysis. This suggests that relative to these therapy and child-characteristic variables, methodological factors have a substantial, though smaller, impact on meta-analysis results. In general, increased experimental rigor was related to larger effect sizes; this argues against the hypothesis that methodologically weak studies have led to an overestimate of therapy effects. No significant interactive relations were found between validity factors and predictors of outcome; this suggests that the relations noted in previous meta-analyses between outcome and various variables were not distorted by the validity factors tested here.

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