Intergenerational and Historical Trauma

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Claire J. Starrs

(Section Editor),

Hannah Fraser-Purdy,

& Vera Békés

AN IMPORTANT FOCUS OF THE STUDY OF TRAUMA IS ITS INTERGENERATIONAL IMPACT. An increasing body of evidence indicates important mental health consequences on subsequent generations, at the individual, as well as the collective and systemic levels. The current review seeks to provide a brief introduction to this area of research.

Intergenerational and Historical Trauma

The relationship between negative/traumatic events and psychological distress is well established for posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, and suicidality (Harkness & Hayden, 2020). Moreover, studies have identified mechanisms through which this relationship is mediated, such as dysfunctional attributions (Hu et al., 2015), cognitive distortions (Smith et al., 2018), immature defenses mechanisms (DiGuiseppe et al., 2021) and maladaptive coping (Rettie & Daniels, 2021). A smaller body of work has emerged examining how trauma in one generation might impact subsequent generations, called intergenerational trauma (IT; Braveheart et al., 2011; Bombay et al., 2009; Sangalang, & Vang, 2017). For example, Langevin et al. (2022) found that maltreatment, especially physical neglect, in a mother’s childhood was associated with an increased risk of maltreatment in the following generations. Furthermore, mother’s experience of physical neglect was associated with increased emotion dysregulation and diminished attachment quality in offspring, and these effects were greater when other forms of maltreatment were also present in the mother’s childhood. In addition to individual processes, there are collective and systemic processes of intergenerational risk associated with massive traumas like genocide, as well as political, social, and cultural traumas experienced by distinct groups, such as exploitation, oppression, and processes of colonization( e.g., displacement, cultural genocide, forced assimilation practices; Braveheart & DeBruyn 1998; Danieli, 1998; Degruy-Leary, 2017; Duran & Duran, 1995). This collective aspect of IT is typically called historical trauma (HT). To continue reading click here.