There’s even an emerging body of research that indicates trauma can be passed down through generations. Although science is not yet sure how it works, there is evidence that so-called transgenerational trauma can be transferred from trauma survivors to other generations. Think of the Holocaust, the Armenian Massacre, and other instances of severe horror and deprivation, and you’ll understand the premise.
On a smaller scale, science has proved that traumatic experiences – sexual or physical abuse, emotional mistreatment, bullying, or witnessing a crime -- can lead to a host of adult disorders, particularly substance abuse. It’s a form of post-traumatic stress disorder, which manifests itself in self-medication, low self-esteem and general depression.
The Definition of Trauma
Let’s define our terms. Trauma means events that are perceived as negative, ones that overwhelm a person’s ability to cope and are extremely emotionally painful. These can be caused by outside influences, as in experiencing a natural disaster, witnessing an automobile crash or seeing an industrial accident. It also may be defined as sexual or physical assault. When these occur during childhood, it’s termed abuse when children are threatened or actually harmed by those who have power over them. This can be a wide range of people, including family members, teachers, coaches, police, religious leaders, or judges. Abuse can happen anywhere, including home, churches, schools, foster care, while a ward of the justice system and even in work settings.