The Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma as a Disruption of the Dialogical Self

J Trauma Dissociation. 2013;14(4):390-403. doi: 10.1080/15299732.2012.742480.


This article is framed as a statement of conclusions derived from a doctoral research process I conducted. The research involved an exploration of the intergenerational transmission of trauma in the lives of mothers and their adult children. The impact of trauma on families can be seen in the various ways in which disruptions in the mother's emotional experience, and in her capacity to contain her child, influence the child's internal world (K. Lyons-Ruth & D. Jacobvitz, 1999 ; M. Main & E. Hesse, 1990). Working from a relational psychoanalytic and attachment theoretic conceptual framework, I consider the intergenerational transmission of trauma in terms of dissociation as the primary psychic defense that manifests in the inner and relational lives of survivors of trauma and their children. Dissociation is framed as a simultaneously intrapsychic and intersubjective process and is defined as a disruption of internal dialogue between conflicting self-states. I explore the disruption of dialogue with reference to G. Dimaggio's (2006) dominant and impoverished narrative trends, identifying these as primary indicators of an intergenerationally manifested dissociative and avoidant process.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Dissociative Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intergenerational Relations*
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations / psychology*
  • Psychoanalytic Theory*
  • Reactive Attachment Disorder / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Transference, Psychology*