This presentation emphasizes the time dimension in trauma assessment, showing that an approach that examines preceding generations’ trauma exposure yields the most complete assessment of an individual’s posttraumatic status. This status is best understood within Danieli’s (1998) multidimensional, multidisciplinary integrative framework.
The transmission of the impact of trauma has been alluded to, written about, and examined in both oral and written form throughout history, in all societies, cultures and religions. Within the field of traumatic stress, intergenerational transmission of trauma is a relatively recent focus, but one with solid clinical, theoretical and empirical bases.
Because the conspiracy of silence most often follows the trauma, it is the most prevalent and effective mechanism for the transmission of trauma. Silence has proven to be profoundly destructive, for it attests to the person’s, family’s, society’s, community’s, and nation’s inability to integrate the trauma. This prevalence of a conspiracy of silence stands in sharp contrast to the widespread research finding that social support is the most important factor in coping with traumatic stress.
The framework enables viewing ‘vulnerability and (rather than or) resilience.’ Findings have demonstrated ego strengths such as high achievement motivation and increased empathic capacities. Families exhibit "a reservoir of spiritual strength" and reflect the contribution of spiritual, religious and sociocultural beliefs to resilience, e.g., the belief that trials and suffering serve a positive function in overcoming adversity and lead to personal growth in victim/survivors and their offspring. Like vulnerability, resilience is modulated genetically, possibly mediated by effects on affiliative behaviors.