A Family Systems Approach to Treating Intergenerational Trauma


When we think of creating family legacies and preserving family traditions, we focus on positive connections and joyous occasions. But often joy is only part of the family story. Pain, while often ignored or even denied, can be passed down from generation to generation.

This legacy of pain, coined Intergenerational trauma (IGT) after World War II, results from a family member’s personal trauma, such as:

  • Cultural attacks like the Holocaust or even 9-11
  • Extreme poverty
  • A natural disaster
  • Violent crime
  • A car accident or unexpected tragedy

Left unhealed, the wounds of traumatic events cause pain and produce ongoing, devastating generational family marks.

Several studies show that the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors suffer anxiety, generalized fear, behavioral problems, and depression. These symptoms reveal that the trauma experiences of parents and grandparents have far-reaching and long-lasting effects on those who did not experience the original trauma firsthand.

Read more at familytrauma.com.

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Soldiers in WWII

Soldiers in Vietnam

Soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Those who were struck by firebombs, white phosphorus, cluster munitions, deleted uranium, and the chaos of a broken society after a homaland is ravaged. 


War is one one of the most pervasive trauma generator that there is - whether one affected by the guns and bombs and depleted uranium of war or inflicted with the moral injury of understanding wars are unjust violence mostly killing innocent people. Wars create probably the most trauma there is in the entire world. 

Never Forget the Ugliness of War! #NoMoreWar


Thank you everyone at ACES for your feedback on this most important area in trauma treatment-

Kathy Hentcy great comment- Due to space limitations we choose to focus on one aspect of intergenerational trauma from a family systems perspective. High ACES scores are the markers. But we found in our research that so often we only treat the child and not the entire family and extended family. And we gave historical context  from historical and cultural trauma and then moved into practical application of "now what?" - Hope this helps clarify.

I'm puzzled by this post - I went to the website to read the entire post, since I don't understand why a history of child abuse and neglect (ACEs, in other words) isn't included. I think it is clear that parents with high ACE scores who have not had treatment or who do not know about ACEs, trauma, toxic stress, etc. are at high risk of "handing down" their stress levels and "markers of trauma."  This strikes me as being in a similar category to articles about PTSD that treat post traumatic stress as if it only comes from military service. What am I missing?

This has helped me to understand more about intergenerational trauma that affect chains of family.  

It sure brings understanding of positive coping  skills that the younger generation and helps the older ones or parents begin to embrace a kind of functionality that builds unity, love friendliness, tolerance for one another.