Rachel Yehuda, Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine conducted research that showed the children of Holocaust survivors were three times more likely to develop P.T.S.D. (post-traumatic stress disorder) if they were exposed to a traumatic event (including things like divorce) than demographically similar Jewish persons whose parents did not survive the Holocaust.
Similar findings were shown with children of women who survived 9/11.
At a biological level, the same neuroendocrine or hormonal abnormalities that the parents possessed were observed in their children even though the children had not been exposed directly to the trauma.
This suggests that when a stressor crosses the line into trauma, that the body doesn’t necessarily simply bounce back, but can encode the trauma through either epigenetic markers in the DNA so it is passed onto the child.
This has particular impact for teachers, counselors, employers, and colleagues who deal with disadvantaged African-American and multi-generational refugee populations. Psychological traumas can run deep, last long and are not “just in the head”.
What is accounted “bad behavior” in children may be a reaction to trauma.
Healing community responses can include acknowledging the trauma, creating a non-judgmental emotional, spiritual, or religious “container” for it, or learning self-awareness, meditative, or contemplative practices together, etc.
Knowing that trauma can be passed down through biology does not have to be disempowering. Rather, it can be a call to compassion and a renewed commitment to healing at all levels, and for all generations.
May we pursue our paths, recognizing generational traumas and committing to healing,