New study shows childhood trauma’s wide intergenerational impact
Researchers at the University of California have just published a study in Pediatrics which found that the effects of childhood trauma have mental health implications for generations.
Adam Schickedanz, a Pediatrics instructor at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, told ABC News, “Early-life experiences — stressful or traumatic ones in particular — have intergenerational consequences for child behavior and mental health… This demonstrates one way in which all of us carry our histories with us, which our study shows has implications for our parenting and our children’s health.”
While the study focused on families situated in the U.S., Schickedanz said it could have implications on family separations at the border. “[Childhood traumas] take a toll in large part as a result of toxic stress responses that appear to be universal, since they have been demonstrated across families from diverse backgrounds,” Schickedanz said. “Based on the available evidence, one would expect that the stresses and trauma children are experiencing due to family separation at the border will have intergenerational behavioral health consequences.”
The study utilized research from parent participants of the 2014 Child Development Supplement. To measure a child’s behavioral issues, researchers gave the parents and caregivers a number of questions to gauge present aggression, anxiety, and other problems for their children on the behavior problems index.
Researchers concluded there was a link between children with a higher behavior problems index and parents who “experienced a greater number of adverse childhood events, ACEs.”
The gender of the parent who suffered childhood trauma was always significant. Children were more negatively affected when it was their mother who experienced the greater number of adverse childhood events. This was because, in most cases, the mother was the primary caregiver, even in two-parent households.
Researchers share they’d like to expand on the study’s outcomes:
“Right now, we are exploring whether these intergenerational [adverse event] associations persist across more than one generation. In fact, our study team’s next step is to examine whether grandparents’ [adverse childhood events] can be linked to their grandchildren’s behavioral health.”
While the study indicated it focused on families in the U.S. from “diverse backgrounds,” it is unclear how the race and socioeconomic backgrounds of families impacted intergenerational trauma.