Intergenerational Trauma

INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA is trauma passed unintentionally from one generation to the next. 

One example is a parent who grew up without secure attachment to their parents – then having difficulty providing attachment and attunement to their own child.

Many traits that were thought to be “genetic” because they were found to “run in families,” are now recognized to be the result of INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA.



Beebe (2010)  The origins of 12-month attachmentAttach Hum Dev.  CLASSIC STUDY.   A microanalysis of 4-month mother-infant face-to-face communication revealed a fine-grained specification of communication processes that predicted 12-month insecure attachment outcomes, particularly resistant and disorganized classifications.

Rolfes (2021)  Protecting the infant-parent relationship:  special emphasis on perinatal mood and anxiety disorder screening and treatment in neonatal intensive care unit parents.  J Perinatology   Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders are common, particularly among parents of infants requiring admission to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), yet remain underdiagnosed and undertreated. Undertreated parental mental health disorders can interfere with healthy infant development.

Ahlfs-Dunn (2022)  Intergenerational transmission of trauma from mother to infant: the mediating role of disrupted prenatal maternal representations of the child.  Attach Hum Dev.  Researchers found a significant indirect effect of the mother's childhood interpersonal trauma on infant-mother attachment insecurity via disrupted ideas of the mother about the pregnancy, with less secure infant-mother attachment when the child was 1 year old.