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10 things women should know about Generational TRAUMA


Many things get passed down through families, like heirlooms, traditions, hair colour, and secret family recipes. Other things get passed down too—like genetic conditions and, in some cases, trauma can be inherited, too.

Generational trauma is the transference of traumatic experiences or stressors from one generation to the next. One of many types of trauma, it can happen through direct experience, witnessing violence, or living in an environment where violence is a constant threat.

Anyone can experience intergenerational trauma, and some may argue that everyone experiences this phenomenon to some degree. However, people from marginalized groups — such as People of Colour and those in lower socioeconomic classes for generations — may have more pronounced experiences with intergenerational trauma.

Below are 10 things women should know about generational trauma…

1. How is trauma passed down? Intergenerational trauma is believed to pass from one generation to the next through genetic changes to a person’s DNA after they experience trauma. There is some evidence that these genetic markers are passed on to a person’s offspring.

2. Everyone is susceptible to generational trauma, but there are specific populations that are vulnerable due to their histories. “Being systematically exploited, enduring repeated and continual abuse, racism, and poverty are all traumatic enough to cause genetic changes.”

3. Though intergenerational trauma can have deep, complex, and far-reaching effects, it’s possible to heal — not to mention minimize your chances of continuing the cycle. You’ll find more details on intergenerational trauma below, including key signs, causes, and tips for getting support.

Generational trauma


4. Building resilience through open and loving communication between generations is one of the best ways to loosen generational trauma’s grip. Healing happens when family members speak up and work through any hurt, pain, or abuse from the past. This is how to avoid generational trauma.

5. It takes seven generations to heal from trauma. Our ancestors also passed down their healing memories and behaviours. Our Elders have always said, “What we do today will affect the next seven generations.” Repetitive traumas that happened to our ancestors, as many as seven generations before, can be passed down to our children.

6. Adverse childhood experiences can be passed from generation to generation as if they were genetic. But breaking that generational trauma is complex. There aren’t easy solutions. It involves an intricate web of understanding the issue, preventing and treating the root issues. This is how hard it is to break generational trauma.

7.  Because the human brain develops in direct response to the environment, the emotional responses of the parent will affect the developing brains of their offspring. Trauma can produce neurochemicals in the brain that will alter brain functioning. These neurochemical changes can also be passed on. This is how generation trauma affects the brain.

8. Higher Risk of Mental Illness and Addiction are the lasting effects of generational trauma. Even after several generations after the traumatic event, people in these families were more likely to experience addiction and mental illnesses, such as: Depression. Anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder.

9. Traumatic events can change the way people view the world around them. It can cause parents to lose trust in other people (or systems), get stuck in survival mode, and shape their beliefs according to their experiences.

10. Effective treatment for those experiencing transgenerational trauma also focuses on exploring, developing, and maintaining protective factors that can reduce the negative impact of transgenerational trauma.


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