Intergenerational Transmission of Captivity Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms: A Twenty Three-Year Longitudinal Triadic Study

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Abstract

Objectives: The aversive, long-term toll of war captivity and fathers’ combat-induced posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms (PTSS) on adult offspring’s mental health has been recently exemplified. However, studies that have examined the implication of PTSS of both fathers and mothers in the intergenerational transmission of trauma to offspring are still lacking. This prospective study assessed the unique and combined effects of former prisoners of war (ex-POWs) fathers’ and mothers’ PTSS in adult offspring’s PTSS. Method: A sample of 123 Israeli father–mother–offspring triads (79 ex-POW triads and a comparable group of 44 veteran triads) completed self-report measures. Following the 1973 Yom Kippur War, fathers participated in 3 waves of measurements (1991, 2003, 2008), mothers participated in 2 waves of measurements (2004, 2011), while offspring took part in 2014. Results: Both fathers’ and mothers’ PTSS were positively related to offspring’s PTSS. Among ex-POW triads, fathers’ PTSS in 2003 and 2008 and mothers’ PTSS in 2004 predicted offspring’s PTSS in 2014. Interestingly, serial multiple mediation model results showed that mothers’ PTSS in 2004 mediated the link between fathers’ PTSS in 1991 and offspring’s PTSS in 2014. Furthermore, fathers’ PTSS in 2008 mediated the link between mothers’ PTSS in 2004 and offspring’s PTSS in 2014. Conclusions: Over time, both ex-POWs fathers’ and mothers’ PTSS are implicated in their offspring’s PTSS. However, both direct and indirect effects of both parents’ posttraumatic reactions contribute to the intergenerational transmission of captivity related trauma.

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