Is There Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma? The Case of Combat Veterans’ Children


This article reviews literature on the transmission of posttraumatic stress disorder from fathers to sons in veteran families. The review asks what literature says about how PTSD might be transmitted, in what form and how children might be vulnerable to the transmission of this stress.


This article is a review of the literature on intergenerational transmission of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from fathers to sons in families of war veterans. The review addresses several questions: (1) Which fathers have a greater tendency to transmit their distress to their offspring? (2) What is transmitted from father to child? (3) How is the distress transmitted and through which mechanisms? And finally, (4) Which children are more vulnerable to the transmission of PTSD distress in the family? Whereas the existing literature deals mainly with fathers' PTSD as a risk for increased emotional and behavior problems among the children, this review also highlights the current paucity of knowledge regarding family members and extrafamilial systems that may contribute to intergenerational transmission of PTSD or to its moderation. Little is also known about resilience and strengths that may mitigate or prevent the risk of intergenerational transmission of trauma.

Full Reference

Dekel, R. and Goldblatt, H., 2008. Is there intergenerational transmission of trauma? The case of combat veterans' children. The American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 78(3), pp. 281-289.