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Transgenerational transmission of trauma in families of Holocaust survivors: the consequences of extreme family functioning on resilience, sense of coherence, anxiety and depression

Pierre Fossion, Christophe Leys, Caroline Vandeleur, Chantal Kempenaers, Stéphanie Braun, Paul Verbanck, Paul Linkowski
Journal of Affective Disorders 2015 January 15, 171: 48-53
25285898

BACKGROUND: The psychological transmission of the noxious effects of a major trauma from one generation to the next remains unclear. The present study aims to identify possible mechanisms explaining this transmission among families of Holocaust Survivors (HS). We hypothesized that the high level of depressive and anxiety disorders (DAD) among HS impairs family systems, which results in damaging coping strategies of their children (CHS) yielding a higher level of DAD.

METHODS: 49 CHS completed the Resilience Scale for Adults, the Hopkins Symptom Check List-25, the 13-Item Sense of Coherence (SOC) scale, and the Family Adaptability and Cohesion Scale. We test a mediation model with Family types as the predictor; coping strategies (i.e. Resilience or SOC) as the mediator; and DAD as the outcome variable.

RESULTS: Results confirm that the CHS׳ family types are more often damaged than in general population. Moreover, growing in a damaged family seems to impede development of coping strategies and, therefore, enhances the occurrence of DAD.

LIMITATIONS: The present investigation is correlational and should be confirmed by other prospective investigations.

CONCLUSIONS: At a theoretical level we propose a mechanism of transmission of the noxious effects of a major trauma from one generation to the next through family structure and coping strategies. At a clinical level, our results suggest to investigate the occurrence of trauma among parents of patients consulting for DAD and to reinforce their coping strategies.

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