An Evaluation of Potential Transgenerational Transmission of Holocaust Trauma in the Third Generation

2010 2010

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Abstract (summary)

The study of transgenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma occupies a primary position in the secondary trauma literature (Kellerman, 2001). The post-Holocaust era was characterized by a progressively sophisticated body of literature that sought to assess for, and subsequently found evidence of, the presence of Holocaust-related trauma characteristics in Holocaust survivors (e.g., de Grauf, 1975; Sigal et al., 1973) and their children (e.g., Lichtman, 1984; Rubenstein et al., 1989; Solkoff, 1981, 1992). Recently, the boundaries of intergenerational transmission of Holocaust-related trauma have expanded to include a new category of potential targets, that is, grandchildren of Holocaust survivors (Kassai & Motta, 2006; Rubinstien, 1990; Scharf, 2007).

The current study has sought to clarify the boundaries of intergenerational transmission of trauma through its assessment of the potential presence of Holocaust- related trauma characteristics in grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. The study has distinguished itself from existing literature on grandchildren of Holocaust survivors through its use of empirically validated and reliable research tools, e.g., the Secondary Trauma Scale (STS; Motta, Hafeez, Sciancalepore, & Diaz, 2001), the Impact of Events Scale-Revised (EIS-R; Weiss & Mannar, 1997), the A-Trait Scale of the State Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI; Spielberger, Gorsuch, Lushene, Vagg, & Jacobs, 1983), and the modified Stroop procedure, which consisted of control stimuli, neutral stimuli, and Holocaust-related stimuli. The present study has furthered the investigation of third generation Holocaust survivors through its inclusion of the research variable of ultra- Orthodox group membership.

Participants in this study included 150 grandchildren who were selected based on their grandparents' status during the Second World War. The groups consisted of ultra-Orthodox grandchildren of two or more Holocaust survivors (n = 58), ultra-Orthodox grandchildren of non-Holocaust survivors (n = 51), and non-Jewish grandchildren of non-Holocaust survivors (n = 41).

Results indicated that ultra-Orthodox participants, regardless of their grandparents' Holocaust survivorship status, exhibit elevated levels of Holocaust-related secondary trauma characteristics, as indicated by their response latencies for color-naming Holocaust-related stimuli on the Modified Stroop procedure. Non-Jewish participants did not exhibit a response delay in color-naming Holocaust-related stimuli on the Modified Stroop procedure. Though no overall inter-group differences were found across the remaining measures of secondary trauma, a substantially high percentage of ultra-Orthodox grandchildren of Holocaust survivors exhibited STS scores that exceeded its cut-off score. These findings suggest that the transfer of Holocaust trauma is not generated by the experience of being a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, but rather from the experience of being a member of the ultra-Orthodox community.

Indexing (details)

Social psychology;
Holocaust Studies;
Clinical psychology
0451: Social psychology
0507: Holocaust Studies
0622: Clinical psychology
Identifier / keyword
Social sciences; Psychology; Grandchildren of Holocaust survivors; Holocaust; PTSD; Secondary trauma; Third generation; Trauma
An Evaluation of Potential Transgenerational Transmission of Holocaust Trauma in the Third Generation
Perlstein, Perella
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-B 72/05, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
Motta, Robert W.
Hofstra University
University location
United States -- New York
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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