On Thursday Oct 15 beginning at 10:30 am, I will be giving a talk for the speaker’s bureau at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, Living Memorial to the Holocaust (http://www.mjhnyc.org). The talk will be titled “Intergenerational Transmission: Inheriting Historical Trauma” and will address the various aspects of strengths and vulnerabilities that have been observed in studies of the children of Holocaust survivors, the so called “Second Generation”.
The talk will address the “Dual Reality” in which children of parents who survived persecution and mass traumatization constantly live. One is the reality of the here and now, into which the “Second Generation” was born. The other is the reality of the trauma, with knowledge of inconceivable and horrifying experiences, incongruent with the here and now. There is a continuous interplay between the two realities. Each one takes its turn as foreground or as background in the psychological world of the children of survivors, in response to internally and externally triggering events and associations.
Parental exposure to trauma has been shown in studies to be associated with the risk of intergenerational transmission of a wide range of bio-psychological effects to the children of survivors. Significant differences in the psychological profile of children of survivors, albeit within the normative range, were observed in many studies, revealing higher levels of anxiety, depression, guilt feelings, achievement orientation and self criticism than among control groups (Felsen, 1998), suggesting a profile of strengths and vulnerabilities in this group.
Unique psychological concerns associated with intergenerational transmission in the second generation will be discussed, as they have expressed themselves at different phases in the life cycle of the second generation, as well as what should be our focus to enhance the mental health of children of survivors as they are now themselves aging.
Finally, the talk will address some of the ways by which transmission of psychological characteristics occur across generations, and what does the research about the second generation tell us in order to protect future generations from transmission of historical trauma.