We have long said and heard things like, “Depression runs in my family,” or, “On Dad’s side there were lots of drinkers.” So I think it’s safe to say that on some level we knew there could be an inter-generational connection when it comes to mental health and addiction. Over the past several years there has been some very interesting research suggesting how that connection happens.
People have argued “nature versus nurture” to account for the conveyance of tendencies or conditions from ancestors to descendants. The “nature” theorists suggested that a vulnerability or predisposition to various conditions was passed on through ones genes; biological inheritance. Others (“team nurture”) assumed a social transmission occurred; that we learned behaviors from the people parenting us.
In all likelihood, neither is wholly responsible. This answer does not seem to be a binary – yes/no – sort of answer. Probably both biological inheritance and social transmissions are factors.
(Read about the pitfalls of binary thinking: Yes or No)
Research shows that trauma plays a role in “passing on” certain vulnerabilities and conditions. It certainly makes sense that traumatized persons may be less emotionally available to their offspring. That would fall into the social transmission school of thought. But perhaps surprisingly, trauma seems to play a role in the biological inheritance of certain vulnerabilities and conditions.
Coming to terms with traumatic events shaping the DNA of future offspring is indeed sobering. Will this help us understand how trauma has affected entire generations (after a world war?) Might this research help us see how entire ethnic groups have been adversely affected genetically by their pasts? Might we see more clearly how whole professions (first responders) bear DNA that is altered by the trauma they have experienced?
Certainly I cannot explain this interesting and hopeful research as well as one of the researchers involved in this important field. Dr. Brian Dias has important and sobering things to say about how trauma can influence future generations. He also has some hopeful advice that each of us can use.
Thank you for making time to watch the video. Please share this blog post! It’s important to you and to people you care about. Furthermore, as we endure a global pandemic there is immeasurable trauma occurring all over the world. A deeper understanding and application of Dr. Dias’ research can help us to help ourselves and the ever-growing number of traumatized people around us.
Be a mosquito for empathy, kindness, and compassion!