Trauma transmission through perceived parental burden among Holocaust survivors offspring and grandchildren

Sonia E. Letzter-Pouw, Amit Shrira, Menachem Ben-Ezra, Yuval Palgi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


The present study focused on childrens evaluation of the extent to which they received the inner pains of their parents as an important mechanism of intergenerational transmission of trauma among offspring and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors (OHS and GHS, respectively). In a representative sample of 172 OHS (Sample 1) we found that this emotional burden perceived to be transmitted from both parents was related to more Holocaust-related posttraumatic symptoms. Both maternal and paternal burden were related to symptoms regardless of the other parent being a Holocaust survivor. In a convenience sample of 285 parent-child dyads (161 OHS-GHS and 124 comparison dyads; Sample 2) we found that perceived transmission of burden from both parents is positively related to OHSs Holocaust salience- the extent to which the Holocaust is present in everyday thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. No such relationship existed among comparisons. Moreover, transmission of parental burden as perceived by OHS was positively related to Holocaust salience among GHS. That relationship was mediated by transmission of parental burden as perceived by the GHS themselves (i.e., parental burden from OHS). Our findings suggest that perceived transmission of parental burden is a significant mechanism by which transmission of trauma can linger across generations. We propose that burden commonly transmitted from parents may create generational boundary dissolution and parent-child role reversal. Such familial dynamic may in turn perpetuate secondary traumatization across several generations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)420-429
Number of pages10
JournalPsychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Holocaust
  • Holocaust salience
  • intergenerational transmission
  • parental burden
  • posttraumatic symptoms


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