Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (https://doi.org/10.1186/s13031-018-0153-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Despite increasing research and clinical interest in delivering psychosocial interventions for children affected by war, little research has been conducted on the underlying mechanisms of change associated with these interventions. This review aimed to identify these processes in order to inform existing interventions and highlight research gaps. A systematic review of reviews was conducted drawing from academic databases (PubMed, PILOTS, Cochrane Library for Systematic Reviews) and field resources (e.g. Médecins Sans Frontières and the Psychosocial Centre of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies), with extracted data analysed using Thematic Content Analysis. Thirteen reviews of psychosocial or psychological interventions for children and adolescents (< 25 years old) affected by war, armed conflict or political violence were identified, covering over 30 countries worldwide. Qualitative analysis identified 16 mechanisms of change, one of which was an adverse mechanism. Themes included protection from harm, play, community and family capacity building, strengthening relationships with caregivers, improved emotional regulation, therapeutic rapport, trauma processing, and cognitive restructuring; with the adverse mechanism relating to the pathologising of normal reactions. However, only 4 mechanisms were supported by strong empirical evidence, with only moderate or poor quality evidence supporting the other mechanisms. The poor quality of supporting evidence limits what can be inferred from this review’s findings, but serves to highlight clinically informed mechanisms of change for existing and widely used non-specialist interventions in the field, which urgently need rigorous scientific testing to inform their continued practice.