Psychopathology and other health dimensions among the offspring of Holocaust survivors: results from the Israel National Health Survey

Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2007;44(2):144-51.


Background: Holocaust survivors show long-lasting psychopathological wounds and scars. The experiences they endured during WWII were thought to impair their parental functioning. A trans-generational transmission of the trauma has been reported by clinicians and by researchers exploring the vulnerability of the adult offspring when facing major stressful events. However, the two previous epidemiological studies conducted so far failed to show enhanced psychopathology when the children of the Holocaust survivors were compared with suitable controls.

Methods: In the Israel-component of the World Mental Health Survey offspring of Holocaust survivors were identified (N=430) and compared to offspring of Europe-born parents who did not reside in Nazi-occupied countries (N=417) on several measures of psychopathology and physical health dimensions that have a marked psychological components, and on health and mental health help-seeking practices.

Results: No statistical differences were elicited between both groups on all those domains.

Conclusions: Apparently, Holocaust survivor parents succeeded to spare their children from the untoward consequences of the psychological wounds and scars of their traumatic past. Survivors strived to secure a better and safer life for their children as evidenced by the relatively higher level of education that the offspring of the survivors were able to achieve than the comparison group, although their own educational career was truncated. Also, separations from parents until the end of adolescence of the children did not differ between the two

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / statistics & numerical data*
  • Holocaust*
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data*