Childhood traumas are ‘passed on’ from one generation to the next, new research shows.
Mothers are more likely to ‘pass on’ their trauma to their children than fathers, the study found.
People whose parents suffered four childhood traumas, such as separation of their parents or abuse, were four times more likely to have mental health problems.
Children of parents who had suffered childhood traumas were also at double the risk of developing ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder).
Dr Adam Schickedanz, the study’s first author, said:
“Previous research has looked at childhood trauma as a risk factor for later physical and mental health problems in adulthood, but this is the first research to show that the long-term behavioral health harms of childhood adversity extend across generations from parent to child.”
The results come from a US national survey of four generations of American families.
Details of any childhood abuse, maltreatment or family stressors were collected.
The results revealed a strong link between parents who had experienced abuse as children and behavioural problems in their children.
Dr Schickedanz said:
“If we can identify these children who are at a higher risk, we can connect them to services that might reduce their risk or prevent behavioral health problems.”
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The study was published in the journal Pediatrics (Schickedanz et al., 2018).