Intergenerational trauma in refugee families: A systematic review

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Twenty studies were analyzed to assess the literature regarding intergenerational trauma in refugee families, specifically the methodologies and findings of peer-reviewed literature. The results show that there is a limited knowledge base regarding the processes of intergenerational trauma.

Intergenerational trauma refers to how trauma experienced in one generation can affect the health and well-being of descendents of future generations, particularly psychiatric symptoms and vulnerability to stress.This systematic review aimed to synthesize the available literature regarding intergenerational trauma in refugee families, in order to assess the methodologies and findings of the current field of research. Fifteen quantitative studies, four qualitative studies, and one mixed-method study were included in the qualitative analysis. The studies analyzed the offspring of survivors from the Holocaust, Southeast Asian wars, Khmer Rouge genocide, and Middle East armed conflict. The findings of these studies were mixed, with the study participants experiencing either increased resilience or a range of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms from the intergenerational trauma. This often varied depending on the trauma experienced, as well as the cultural context of the intergenerational trauma.  It was noted that these studies varied significantly in not only methodological rigor, but also consistency in reporting and definitions of trauma. The authors note that this research may not be generalizable to all refugee contexts, and that more consistent research is necessary to draw conclusions.

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