Pharmacotherapy of aggression in children and adolescents: Efficacy and effect size

Elizabeth Pappadopulos, Sophie Woolston, Alanna Chait, Matthew Perkins, Daniel F. Connor, Peter S. Jensen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

102 Scopus citations


Introduction: The treatment of pediatric aggression often involves psychotropic agents. Despite growing research on pediatric psychopharmacology, however, clinical issues regarding medication management of persistent behavioral problems remain poorly addressed. Method: A review of the literature from 1980 to November, 2005 yielded 45 randomized, placebo-controlled trials that addressed the treatment of aggression as either a primary or secondary outcome variable. Effect sizes (ES) (Cohen's d) were calculated for studies that met inclusion criteria. Results: Overall ES for psychotropic agents in treating aggression was 0.56. Despite variability in psychiatric diagnoses, select agents showed moderate to large effects on maladaptive aggression. Most studies focused on younger children (mean age = 10.4 years), and were of short duration (7 to 70 days). Largest effects were noted with methylphenidate for co-morbid aggression in ADHD (mean ES = 0.9, combined n = 844) and risperidone for persistent behavioral disturbances in youth with conduct disorder and sub-average IQ (mean ES = 0.9, combined n = 875). Conclusion: A growing literature supports the use of certain medications for managing pediatric aggression. Future studies should distinguish between impulsive and predatory aggression, and examine the efficacy of agents over longer treatment periods.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)27-39
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2006


  • Aggression
  • Effect size
  • Pediatric psychopharmacology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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