It’s fairly well known that I’m hoping to eventually complete a PhD in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. While talking with a co-worker about this a few months back, I mentioned that it would be interesting to study how the survivors of the Holocaust coped with their ordeal versus the survivors of modern genocides.
In a not dissimilar line of thinking, Janine Beck, a PhD student at Queensland University of Technology, conducted a study that revealed that depression, anxiety, and trust issues were all elevated in descendants of Holocaust survivors.
The children and grandchildren of survivors experienced depression and anxiety at a higher rate than the general population, Ms Beck said.
They also had more difficulty trusting others, which leads to difficulties in relationships.
The researcher said the traumatic after-effects of the Holocaust flowed to subsequent generations through the way survivors interacted with their children.
“Survivors were either over-protective or clingy because they were fearful that something would happen to their children or they were dismissive and pushed their children away in an attempt to prevent any future hurt,” Ms Beck said.
“These parenting patterns are highly likely to be repeated, so the cycle of trauma transmission continues.”
The study showed that the most affected survivors – those who spent time in concentration camps or were the sole survivor in their family – had children who were the most affected.
“In addition, survivors from Hungary and Eastern European countries appear to have suffered from higher symptom levels than those from Western European countries,” Ms Beck said.
I imagine that Beck’s findings would translate fairly uniformly to places such as Rwanda and Darfur. I do wonder, however, if the availability of mental health services wouldn’t factor into the outcome, leaving impoverished countries with greater suffering and a more prolonged impact.
I was particularly grateful to see Beck’s study as the question I had originally asked was one that I would never actually get around to answering myself. I’m interested to see if she goes on to do similar studies with different conflicts.