Ways Inter-generational trauma can affect your child



Have you ever heard of the term “inter-generational” trauma or better yet, the “family curse?” If so, you're probably aware of the fact that generational trauma has a negative impact on generations within a family system. It can result in compromised trust, honesty, and openness within a family. The more trauma over the course of multiple generations within a family, the more secretive a family may become to “protect” it's legacy. It isn't until someone from the younger generation sets out to understand the impact of the “generational curse” that things begin to change.

That was me some years ago when I decided to look closely at the behavioral patterns, choices, and belief systems over generations on both the maternal and paternal sides of my family. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this.

It wasn't until I became certified in clinical trauma therapy that I began to fully understand the damage of inter-generational trauma. I've written about and discussed this topic on various media platforms but never did I ever consider that many of my very own clients were experiencing the consequences of unspoken generational trauma.

Intergenerational trauma can negatively impact your children psychologically, emotionally, and even economically. It's negative impact is far reaching. It can result in:

  1. Younger generations developing a “content” attitude with how things are: Older generations set the stage for how things within a family are addressed. If ignoring and minimizing trauma is “normal” for the family, younger generations may adopt this way of “survival” and mimic the behaviors throughout generations. Individuals who ignore or minimize and deny family trauma are only making matters worse for younger family members. Much of how we cope with traumatic experience is learned. If your family has never learned to seek therapeutic support, reach out for social support, acknowledge a need for change, etc., then younger generations are likely to become complacent with the way things are.
  2. Unresolved psychiatric problems that can lead to relational turmoil: Perhaps this is a misconception but most people believe older generations oppose counseling. This belief system is both generational and cultural. The attitude of some older men and women is “I can heal myself” and “what happens in the family, stays in the family.” Family members who are struggling with mental health or a traumatic event truly need therapeutic support. Ignoring and normalizin things only makes trauma worse. Unresolved psychiatric symptoms can also lead to further trauma and emotional turmoil within families.
  3. Trauma that limits the parent-child relationship: Parents who have not received help or support for their trauma can develop unhealthy relationships with their child. An unhealthy relationship may be characterized by emotional, psychological, or verbal abuse. In serious cases, the abuse may be sexual or physical. This type of abuse can severely alter the parent-child relationship. Parents who have experienced trauma themselves may also misplace emotions onto the innocent child. In addition, parents who have unresolved trauma may also become emotionally detached from their children which results in a poor parent-child relationship.
  4. Generations struggling with emotions: Older generations often set the stage (knowingly or unknowingly) for how emotions within the family are dealt with. Do you hide your emotions and act as if nothing is happening? Do you internalize your emotions until something triggers them to come spilling out? Or does your family drink and/or use drugs to cope with the pain? Whatever the case may be, older generations often set the stage for how traumatic events should be (and often are) coped with. Sadly, the family trauma continues throughout generations because those who needed help never received it.

It's important that parents understand the influence of inter-generational trauma on the younger generations. I am of the firm belief that someone within the family can change the course of the generational trauma by doing things differently. One person can begin their own journey of healing with the goal of changing generational thought patterns or behaviors that may have been adopted. Once self-awareness and resilience is built, the future should look brighter.


Támara Hill, MS, NCC, CCTP, LPC, is a licensed therapist and certified trauma professional, in private practice, who specializes in working with children and adolescents who suffer from mood disorders, trauma, and disruptive behavioral disorders. She also works with some young and older adults struggling with grief & loss or life transitions. Hill strives to help clients to realize and actualize their strengths in their home environments and in their relationships within the community. She credits her career passion to a “divine calling” and is internationally recognized for corresponding literary works as well as appearances on radio and other media platforms. She is an author, family consultant, and founder of Anchored in Knowledge.com. Visit her at www.anchoredinknowledge.com or Twitter and Youtube.