Multigenerational Legacies of Trauma: Modeling the What and How of Transmission

American Journal of Orthopsychiatry - 2016-01-01Danieli Y, Norris FH, Engdahl B10.1037/ort0000145
To operationalize the theory of Trauma and the Continuity of Self: A Multidimensional, Multidisciplinary, Integrative Framework (Danieli, 1998), we created a testable model using factors in Holocaust survivors' lives that may have affected their offspring's adaptation. A web-based sample of 422 adult children of survivors completed a 3-part inventory assessing multigenerational legacies of trauma. To explain the severity of the child's reparative adaptational impacts, we conducted hierarchical regression analyses (Phase 1) and path analyses (Phase 2). We hypothesized that these impacts followed largely from the (child-reported) intensities of parents' victim, numb, and fighter posttrauma adaptational styles. These styles, in turn, followed from family history and post-Holocaust family milieu. With all effects of family history and milieu on offspring specified as indirect (through parents' victim styles), the initial path model fit the data well with one exception: Broken generational linkages had direct as well as indirect effects. While survivors' Holocaust experiences-especially internment-had significant indirect effects on their children, each component of post-Holocaust family milieu had one or more associations with mothers' and fathers' victim, numb, and/or fighter styles. The strongest relationships emerged for broken generational linkages-a risk factor for negative effects-and sociocultural setting (living in Israel rather than North America)-a protective factor. Because the healing processes that underlie observed effects of family milieu are malleable, survivors' and offspring's suffering might be reduced through efforts to recapture meaning, purpose, identity, connectedness of past, present and future, and attachments to community and place.