Family Trauma: Is Psychological Impact Passed Through Generations?

New research by geneticists has found that exposure to traumatic events may actually alter the way a person’s genes behave, even after those genes have been passed on to his or her child. The research is just one avenue of exploration into how PTSD impacts not only the individual, but those close to the person. Previous studies have already shown that children raised by a parent with PTSD or depression are more likely than their peers to exhibit signs of stress and anxiety. Regardless of the genetic research, it’s important to recognize the complex relationship between parent and child. For those who struggle with PTSD, or who have lived through any type of trauma, exploring these issues in psychotherapy is an important step in creating a psychologically safe environment for the whole family, and also for themselves.

© Copyright 2010 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Rudy C.

    Rudy C.

    September 10th, 2010 at 2:55 AM

    This is big!I mean,the fact that something like this could be passed on to an offspring is just emphatic!
    Its like whatever we encounter in our lives not only has an effect on out lives after the event but also on our near ones!Its like we live in a world that is so ‘connected’!

  • viv


    September 10th, 2010 at 3:01 AM

    HMMM I am a little suspicious about this. I do not see any way that a family trauma could actually change someone’s genes and how they behave and react in certain situations. maybe this type of behavior is learned and not inherent? You know, nurture beating out nature?

  • Matt


    September 10th, 2010 at 8:13 AM

    Yes, this is very big. Further evidence that we are all connected, even by ways that we’re still struggling to understand.

  • Pete


    September 10th, 2010 at 11:12 AM

    So kids that are more stressed and anxious will probably have a parent in the USAF?!

  • WR


    September 11th, 2010 at 12:42 AM

    I believe at least half the people who experience PTSD are old enough to not pass on these ‘modified’ genes to their kids because they have their kids before the PTSD…so this further makes me think that treatment of younger people with PTSD should be more excessive than others because it may well have an effect on their future kids.

  • Jeff


    September 11th, 2010 at 5:41 AM

    Look if a child is forced to be raised in a screwed up household the it is almost a guarantee that they will be screwed up too.

    makes me wish it was mandatory for parents to really get their stuff together before bringing a baby into the mix of things.

  • Jane


    September 12th, 2010 at 6:21 AM

    You live later in life what you learn from a young age. I don’t know if it manipulates the genes but it sure does skew your view on life, that’s for sure.

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Title   Content   Author is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on