Effectiveness and specificity of a classroom-based group intervention in children and adolescents exposed to war in Lebanon

The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness and specificity of a classroom-based psychosocial intervention after war. All students (n=2500) of six villages in Southern Lebanon designated as most heavily exposed to war received a classroom-based intervention delivered by teachers, consisting of cognitive-behavioural and stress inoculation training strategies. A random sample of treated students (n=101) and a matched control group (n=93) were assessed one month post-war and one year later. Mental disorders and psychosocial stressors were assessed using the Diagnostic Interview for Children and Adolescents – Revised with children and parents. War exposure was measured using the War Events Questionnaire. The prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD), separation anxiety disorder (SAD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was examined pre-war, one month post-war (pre-intervention), and one year post-war. Specificity of treatment was determined by rating teachers' therapy diaries. The rates of disorders peaked one month post-war and decreased over one year. There was no significant effect of the intervention on the rates of MDD, SAD or PTSD. Post-war MDD, SAD and PTSD were associated with pre-war SAD and PTSD, family violence parameters, financial problems and witnessing war events. These findings have significant policy and public health implications, given current practices of delivering universal interventions immediately post-war.