EFFECT OF INTERGENERATIONAL TRAUMA ON CHILDREN'S MENTAL HEALTH
Intergenerational trauma is defined as “a discrete form of trauma which occurs when traumatic effects are passed across generations without exposure to the original event” (Jensen et al., 2021). This encompasses a broad range of traumatic events which parents may have gone through including but not limited to: community violence, war, natural disasters, personal assault, gender-based violence, and domestic violence (Jensen et al., 2021). This kind of intergenerational trauma has vast and enduring effects on physical health and emotional well-being while also increasing the risk of mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in children (Jensen et al., 2021).
Although intergenerational trauma is applicable to a wide range of mental illnesses, PTSD is one of the most highly researched and well understood examples of the effects of intergenerational trauma on children. A study based in Rwanda found that the children of mothers who were exposed to genocide showed high rates of PTSD symptoms and that there was a positive correlation between severity of trauma experienced by mothers and rates of PTSD in their offspring (Jensen et al., 2021). Another study on Holocaust survivors showed that parental PTSD was associated with PTSD in their children and parental trauma correlated with depression in children (Jensen et al., 2021). Other studies that focused on deployed military parents showed that there was a high degree of children internalizing issues such as depression and poor socioemotional adjustment (Jensen et al., 2021). Another recent study also showed that there were three categories of PTSD symptoms that interfered with attentive and responsive parenting, thus impacting the childhood of these children (Jensen et al., 2021). Caregiver avoidance as a result of their PTSD, causes reduced participation in parent-child activities (Jensen et al., 2021). Emotional disturbances may blunt positive emotions so that the child does not ever receive positive affirmation (Jensen et al., 2021). Greater showings of anger, conflict and distress may interfere with expression of warmth and affection (Jensen et al., 2021).
Other than PTSD, depression in caregivers has also been studied for its effect on children. Research shows that mothers with depression tend to be more irritable, less engaged, exhibit less warmth, and instigate fewer playful interactions with their children (Jensen et al., 2021). This affects the child’s ability to develop normal cognitive and language skills and to exercise self-regulation and social engagement with caregivers (Jensen et al., 2021). It is also important to consider that the presence of any mental illness, especially one with as much social stigma as depression, results in the children feeling shame and experiencing difficulties with peer interaction and making friends (Landstedt and Almquist, 2019).
As sympathetic social relationships are critical protective factors against mental health issues, the loneliness and weak peer networks caused by intergenerational trauma is a large risk factor for mental illness in these children (Landstedt and Almquist, 2019).
Overall, intergenerational trauma and resulting mental illness in parents or caregivers have an immense effect on the mental health of their children. This is most commonly seen with PTSD and depression but is true for many other mental illnesses as well. It is critical that parents recognize symptoms of mental illness in themselves and obtain help from professional services such as those listed in this website: https://www.ontario.ca/page/find-mental-health-support. Hopefully, with earlier identification of mental health issues in caregivers, their children will suffer less in the future.
THE EFFECTS OF COVID-19 ON CHILDREN’S MENTAL HEALTH
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a trying time for everyone but especially for children. With the new practice of online schooling, the accompanying social isolation, and the general fear of the uncertainties that arise from this whole situation, there are numerous new realities to which children have to get accustomed. All of these factors combine to have a huge impact on children’s mental health in a variety of ways.
Schools offer children a daily routine that helps to structure and guide their lives. This includes getting the opportunity to participate in regular extracurricular activities that often engage them in physical activity, regulate sleep cycles, and enable frequent social interactions with peers and teachers (Cost et al., 2021). These are all very important in protecting the mental health of children and adolescents (Cost et al., 2021). With online schooling, this routine is disturbed which results in a negative effect on mental health.
OVER TWO THIRDS OF CHILDREN ACROSS CANADA HAVE SHOWN A DETERIORATION IN MENTAL HEALTH THAT IS CORRELATED WITH STRESS FROM SOCIAL ISOLATION (COST ET AL., 2021).
of children were between the ages of 6-18
were between the ages of 2-5
Pre-school aged children were shown to be a lot less likely to have a deterioration in mental health (Cost et al., 2021).