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November 8, 2022

Let's talk about intergenerational trauma

Intergenerational trauma affects families across generations. Learn about its impact and approaches to healing.

Sofia Noori, MD, MPH
Let's talk about intergenerational trauma

Intergenerational Trauma

When we think about passing traits down to our children, we might think about what hair color our children will inherit, or height, or at worst, perhaps a disease that runs in the family. However, we tend not to think about how events we are exposed to during our lifetimes can affect the next generation.

Through years of research, it has become apparent that the experience of trauma is not isolated to the generation that it has directly affected. In fact, trauma is passed down from generation to generation in multiple ways through both our relationships and genetics.

The original research on the genetics of trauma was largely conducted with holocaust survivors. Researchers examined the life trajectories of children of holocaust survivors who seemed to be more biologically at risk for the development of PTSD. There have been multiple biological theories about how trauma to the parent can affect the child.  One of the main areas of science that is being studied is the field of epigenetics implying that PTSD can have effects on the way our DNA or genes are expressed. Besides biological theories, researchers and clinicians have believed that parental PTSD can affect the child via parenting styles and the way parents form relationships.

Recently, an article was published in the journal of General Hospital Psychiatry that urged people as a matter of public health to think about interventions for PTSD. In their study, they found that offspring of patients with PTSD were more likely to develop chronic pain syndromes and depressive disorders. These studies demonstrate that although the exact methods of trauma on future generations is still up for debate, it is clear that trauma is not isolated to those who it directly affects.

At Nema, we believe that your trauma should not continue to affect your family and yourself, and that is why we strongly believe in effective trauma therapy. We believe that trauma recovery is the building block to healing families and communities.