The current paper reviews research that has explored the intergenerational effects of the Indian Residential School (IRS) system in Canada, in which Aboriginal children were forced to live at schools where various forms of neglect and abuse were common. Intergenerational IRS trauma continues to undermine the well-being of today's Aboriginal population, and having a familial history of IRS attendance has also been linked with more frequent contemporary stressor experiences and relatively greater effects of stressors on well-being. It is also suggested that familial IRS attendance across several generations within a family appears to have cumulative effects. Together, these findings provide empirical support for the concept of historical trauma, which takes the perspective that the consequences of numerous and sustained attacks against a group may accumulate over generations and interact with proximal stressors to undermine collective well-being. As much as historical trauma might be linked to pathology, it is not possible to go back in time to assess how previous traumas endured by Aboriginal peoples might be related to subsequent responses to IRS trauma. Nonetheless, the currently available research demonstrating the intergenerational effects of IRSs provides support for the enduring negative consequences of these experiences and the role of historical trauma in contributing to present day disparities in well-being.
Keywords: Aboriginal; Indian Residential School; historical trauma; intergenerational trauma; stressors.
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