Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma: The Mediating Effects of Family Health

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 May 13;19(10):5944. doi: 10.3390/ijerph19105944.


Family health is important to the well-being of individual family members and the collective family unit, and as such, may serve as a mediator for the intergenerational transmission of trauma (ITT). This study aimed to understand the intergenerational impact of parent's adverse and positive childhood experiences (ACEs and PCEs) on their children's adverse family experiences (AFEs) and how family health mediated those relationships. The sample consisted of 482 heterosexual married or cohabiting couples (dyads) in the United States who had a child between the ages of 3 and 13 years old. Each member of the dyad completed a survey, and data were analyzed using structural equation modeling. Parental ACEs were associated with more AFEs. The fathers', but not the mothers', ACEs were associated with worse family health. Parental PCEs were associated with better family health, and family health was associated with lower AFE scores. Indirect effects indicated that parental PCEs decreased AFEs through their impact on family health. Family health also mediated the relationship between the father's ACEs and the child's AFEs. Interventions designed to support family health may help decrease child AFEs.

Keywords: adverse childhood experiences; adverse family experiences; family health; intergenerational transmission of trauma; positive childhood experiences.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family Health*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mothers
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States / epidemiology

Grants and funding

This research received no external funding. A.C. received an internal grant from the Brigham Young University Women’s Research Initiative.