Objective: This study examines the phenomenology of intergenerational transmission of trauma with the aim of elucidating the interactional process of transmission within an object relations framework.
Method: The method consisted of systematic textual analysis of semi-structured interviews with six Jewish women born after the war who were children of concentration camp interned Holocaust survivors.
Results: Four superordinate themes were identified: heightened awareness of parents' Holocaust survivor status, parenting style, overidentification with parents' experiences and transmission of fear and mistrust. These were found despite the variation in parental communication.
Conclusions: The data suggest that unconscious processes are at least partially involved in the transmission of trauma. A form of projective identification is proposed as an explanatory mechanism which brings together diverse aspects of the observed phenomena: projection by the parent of Holocaust-related feelings and anxieties into the child; introjection by the child as if she herself had experienced the concentration camps; and return of this input by the child in the form of compliant and solicitous behaviour associated with enmeshment and individuation problems. Further research may establish these phenomena as a particular form of Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder.