Some life events are so difficult and overwhelming that they seem unbearable
to the sufferer. That burden is often carried in part by family members,
friends, and loved ones. But what about the next generation? Some believe
that the effects of trauma can be transferred between generations, such
as a parent to a child—even if that child didn’t necessarily
experience the traumatic event firsthand.
While scientists are still navigating this terrain, it is clear that there
is some weight to the idea of transgenerational trauma. This trauma can
be passed through unconscious cues or observed changes of behavior. Anxiety
may fall from one generation to the next through stories told, events
discussed, and even treatment of a child by a parent or grandparent due
The Handing Down of Neurotic Traits
Schools of psychology regularly look at the connection between trauma in
a parent and the passing down of neurotic traits. In the post-Holocaust
era, the first prominent literature emerged on this topic. Described as
the Holocaust syndrome, reports were made on the transmission of trauma
from the Holocaust to the second generation. While further development
needs to be made in this area, this major event shed more light on the issue.
For example, Israeli soldiers who were second generation Holocaust survivors
were studied closely after the Lebanese war. It was found that this second
generation had a more protracted course of PTSD, potentially pointing
to a strong vulnerability due to transgenerational trauma.
Studies on this matter were recognized by the International Society of
Traumatic Stress Studies (ISTSS). The Special Interest Area Group on Intergenerational
Transmission of Trauma and Resiliency was also founded to further research
this potential connection.
Do “Traumatized” Parents Lead to “Traumatized” Children?
Large numbers of clinical practice studies have shown that patients who
have suffered PTSD are emotionally limited, preoccupied, or “traumatized,”
which can translate to a child’s development. For example, a parent’s
symptoms such as traumatic reliving, emotional numbing, and other traumatic
responses can limit a child from developing a sense of safety and security,
a sense of identity, and even autonomy. The parent’s high levels
of anxiety can easily interfere with the child’s own development,
causing a sort of generational passing of trauma.
When trauma is transferred from the first generation of “trauma survivors”
to the second or third generation, it can be confusing, overwhelming,
and difficult for that next generation to navigate. Many individuals may
not immediately identify the source of their anxiety or stress disorders,
making transgenerational trauma an often frustrating and confusing condition
Therapeutic Solutions offers behavioral health solutions designed to help
patients deal with anxiety, depression, and other transgenerational trauma
symptoms. Learn more about our
programs through our website or by
calling us at (530) 883-8535.