The role of parental negative world assumptions in the intergenerational transmission of war trauma

Rahel Bachem, Johanna Scherf, Yafit Levin, Michela Schröder-Abé, Zahava Solomon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: Among the most prevalent and adverse sequalae of traumatic experiences are negative world assumptions (WAs), which describe trauma-related negative cognitions regarding the self, the world, and others. Even though a wealth of studies has shown intrapersonal associations between negative WAs and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), there has been little research on how WAs may affect family systems. This study examined the intergenerational associations between parental WAs, paternal PTSS, and maternal secondary traumatic stress (STS) on adult–children’s STS in veterans’ families. It was hypothesized that negative paternal WAs would mediate the association between parental PTSS/STS and adult–children’s STS. Methods: Three domains of WAs (benevolence of the world, meaningfulness of the world, and self-worth) and PTSS were prospectively assessed in 123 father–mother–offspring triads of former Israeli veterans of the 1973 Yom Kippur War, their wives and adult offspring. Data were collected in 2003, 2008, and 2014, and analyzed using triadic path modeling. Results: Mothers’ STS was associated with children’s STS via negative maternal WAs on world benevolence. Fathers’ PTSS was related to children’s STS via fathers’ WAs on world benevolence and self-worth. Moreover, fathers’ WAs on world benevolence and self-worth mediated the intergenerational transmission of STS from mothers to offspring. No effects were found for meaningfulness WAs. Conclusion: Findings suggest that parental WAs related to world benevolence and paternal self-worth contribute to intergenerational trauma transmission. Clinical implications favor cognitive and systemic approaches to therapy that address negative benevolence and self-worth assumptions and involve the entire family system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)745-755
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2020


  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Secondary traumatic stress
  • World assumptions


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