Effects of trauma‐informed approaches in schools: A systematic review
The review in brief
Despite growing support and increased rate of which trauma‐informed approaches are being promoted and implemented in schools, evidence to support this approach is lacking.
What is this review about?
Exposure to different types of trauma have been associated with varying types and complexity of adverse outcomes, including adverse effects on cognitive functioning, attention, memory, academic performance, and school‐related behaviors. Given the growing research on trauma and increased knowledge about the prevalence, consequences and costs associated with trauma, there have been increased efforts at the local, state and federal levels to make systems “trauma‐informed” (Lang, Campbell, & Vanerploeg, 2015). While the intent of creating trauma‐informed approaches in schools is a noble one, relatively little is known about the benefits, costs, and how trauma‐informed approaches are being defined and evaluated (Berliner & Kolko, 2016). Adopting a trauma‐informed approach in a complex system such as a school building or district is a time consuming and potentially costly endeavor and thus it is important to assess the effects of this approach to inform policy and practice.
This aim of this review was to assess trauma‐informed approaches in schools on trauma symptoms/mental health, academic performance, behavior, and socioemotional functioning. Trauma‐informed approaches include programs, organizations, or systems that realize the impact of trauma, recognize the symptoms of trauma, respond by integrating knowledge about trauma policies and practices, and seeks to reduce retraumatization. At least two of the three key elements of a trauma‐informed approach must have been present: Workforce development, trauma‐focused services, and organizational environment and practices, which differ from trauma‐specific interventions designed to treat or otherwise address the impact/symptoms of trauma and facilitate healing.
What is the aim of this review?
This Campbell systematic review sought to examine the effects trauma‐informed schools on trauma symptoms/mental health, academic performance, behavior, and socioemotional functioning. Although we conducted a comprehensive search to find studies testing trauma‐informed approaches in schools, no studies met the inclusion criteria.
What are the main findings of this review?
No studies met criteria for this review, indicating that there is a lack of evidence of trauma‐informed approaches in schools.
What do the findings of this review mean?
Despite widespread support and growing adoption of trauma‐informed approaches in schools across the globe, we found no studies to provide good evidence to suggest that this approach is effective in achieving the stated goals. Given the degree to which trauma‐informed approaches are being adopted in schools across the US and other countries, it is important that the effects of these programs be assessed.
How up‐to‐date is this review?
The review authors searched for studies June through September, 2017.
Read the full Open Access systematic review here.
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