Session 13: Intergenerational Traumas

2nd Global Conference


Wednesday 21st March – Saturday 24th March 2012
Prague, Czech Republic

Children of Trauma: Early Relational Trauma and Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma
Clara Mucci
Humanities and Psychology Faculty, University of Chieti, Italy

In my paper I will focus on two different kinds of trauma: the first one is what is now called “early relational trauma”, i.e. the negative circumstances in the early care of the infant by the caregiver, such as abuse and severe neglect in the first years, that result in a “disorganized” kind of attachment, which seems to be related to several psychological pathologies in childhood and adulthood; the second one has to do with what is called “massive psychic trauma”, such as wars and genocide, in which the transmission of traumatic elements that have not been processed and overcome from the parents is trasferred onto the following generations. The two kinds of trauma are often interconnected, because caregivers who have been victims of abuse themselves or are depressed, alcoholic or suffer from a trauma of the past, that has not been worked through sufficiently, are more likely to maltreat their children, or respond negatively or with emotional distance to their children’s needs and affects. These caregivers might be either identifying with the aggressor and unconsciously repeating some of the abuse they have suffered, or they might be using defenses against the same affects and feelings their children experience, so that they can’t empathize with their children’s needs and therefore fail in recognizing their children’s emotions, which negatively impacts on a phase that developmental psychology nowadays sees as the first moment of the child’s forming self, with neurobiological correlates.

Finally I would like to present two cases of mine who are currently in treatment in which both early relational trauma is present and the intergenerational transmission of it.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)

The Trauma Behind the Myth: The Necessity to Recover the Past in Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day
Patricia San José Rico
University of Valladolid, Spain

During recent years, Trauma has been insistently coupled with notions of history and historicism. Indeed, recent concepts like that of historical memory and historical rectification are being broadly used in socio-political contexts in clear conjunction with it. Moreover, the fact that history is no longer seen as a mere account of past deeds and events but as a crucial element for the formation of collective identity, adds for trauma and its relation with history and identity formation to be now found at the core of numerous sociological and political discourses.

And yet, if trauma is intrinsically related to the past, in its tendency to reappear and repeat itself both in the form of recursive symptoms and as intergenerational transmission, it is also unavoidably connected to the present and even to the future. It is precisely this concept that lies at the core of Gloria Naylor’s Mama Day. This novel, in its representation of the inhabitants of Willow Springs and their troubling relationships with the past, offers a compelling example of how past personal and collective traumas, though intrinsically intertwined with history, can be later forgotten only to reappear later in the form of myth and traditions.

Thus, through an analysis of the narrative and its progressive unveiling of the true story behind those masked traditions, this article will show how trauma can be embedded even in the most fantastic and mythicized of histories and is bound to reappear and repeat itself unless it is directly approached and internalized in the ever-changing narratives of both individuals and community.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)

Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma: The Case of the Dersim Massacre 1937-8
Filiz Celik
Swansea University, UK

Destruction, loss of life and shelter are the consequences of all kinds of disasters. However, human-made disasters seems to leave more indellible marks on the affected societies. This is perhaps because human-made disasters affect not just lives, livelihoods and ways of life; they also impact on human dignity.

Today, acts of collective violence such as genocide, ethnocide and massacres have become hot topics of debates regarding International law and Human Right violations (i.e. Hinton, 2002) . Survivors continue to suffer from the consequences of pressure and stereotyping for decades after. Further, there is strong evidence to suggest that trauma can be transmitted to later generations (i.e. Danielli, 1998).

This paper, the first part of a PhD thesis, examines the intergenerational transmission of trauma due to collective violence. Specifically, the Dersim 1937-9 Massacre resulted in not just in tens of thousands of deaths and thousands of people internally displaced by government forces, but also in a lost generation of children. Ten semi-structured interviews were conducted with 2nd and 3rd generation survivors of the 1937-8 Dersim massacre living in Tunceli (Dersim). Key themes that have emerged are transmission of trauma to later generations both through overexposure to ancestral trauma and conspiracy of silence.

Download Draft Conference Paper (pdf)