Intergenerational Trauma

By: Dr Carla Kesrouani April 14, 2023 no comments

Intergenerational Trauma


Intergenerational trauma is a phenomenon that occurs when the effects of trauma pass down from one generation to the next. This can happen in families and communities that have experienced significant trauma, such as war, genocide, forced displacement, or colonization. The trauma can be passed down through cultural practices, family dynamics, and even genetic changes that occur as a result of the trauma.


This trauma can occur for a variety of reasons. It is often the result of significant historical traumas, such as slavery, the Holocaust, or the Indian Residential School System in Canada. When a group of people experiences trauma on a large scale, the effects pass down through generations. This can happen through cultural practices, such as storytelling or rituals, that help to preserve the memory of the trauma. It can also happen through family dynamics, such as parenting styles or communication patterns that are influenced by the trauma. Additionally, recent research has shown that trauma can have epigenetic effects, meaning that it can cause changes to gene expression that can be passed down through generations.


The symptoms of intergenerational trauma can vary widely depending on the individual and the nature of the trauma. Some common symptoms include:

  • Anxiety and depression: It can lead to feelings of anxiety and depression, as well as other mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Substance abuse: Individuals who have experienced such trauma may be more likely to engage in substance abuse as a way of coping with their emotions.
  • Relationship problems: It can lead to difficulties in forming and maintaining healthy relationships with others.
  • Physical health issues: Studies have shown that intergenerational trauma can have physical health effects, such as increased risk of heart disease and other chronic illnesses.
  • Cultural disconnection: It can lead to a disconnection from one’s culture and heritage, as well as a sense of loss or disconnection from the past.


Treatment for intergenerational trauma can take many forms, depending on the individual and the nature of the trauma. Some common treatment options include:

  • Therapy: Therapy can be an effective way to address the emotional and psychological effects of intergenerational trauma. This can include individual therapy, group therapy, or family therapy.
  • Cultural practices: Many cultures have traditional practices that can help to heal the effects of the trauma. This can include things like storytelling, traditional ceremonies, or other cultural practices that help to connect individuals to their heritage.
  • Education: Learning about the history and context of the trauma can help individuals to better understand the effects and how it has impacted their lives.
  • Community support: Community support can be an important part of healing from the trauma. This can include support groups, cultural organizations, or other community resources that provide a sense of connection and belonging.


Intergenerational trauma is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that can have a significant impact on individuals and communities. Understanding intergenerational trauma is an important step in addressing its effects and promoting healing. Thus, with the right support and resources, individuals who have experienced intergenerational trauma can find healing and connection with their heritage and community.



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