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Holocaust Survivors Spare Children Psychological Wounds of Their Traumatic Past

January - February, 2008  |  Volume 7, Issue 1

Parents who are Holocaust survivors have spared their children the psychological wounds of their own traumatic past, according to a trans-generational study. Part of the Israel-component of the World Mental Health Survey, the analysis was partially supported by Fogarty and published in the Israeli Journal of Psychiatry Related Science.

Dr. Itzhak Levav of the Ministry of Health in Jerusalem and his research team surveyed children whose parents were Holocaust survivors as well as a comparison group of children of European-born parents who had not resided in Nazi-occupied Europe. In addition to psychopathological domains explored in past community studies--such as emotional distress, mood and anxiety disorders--the team researched new factors including the use of services, self-appraisal of health, self-reported physical health conditions and suicidal behavior.

Given the parents' ordeal during and immediately after World War II, the study team expected that their children would be affected in terms of their psychopathology, as well as other psychological domains. However, in the measures used, they found no differences between Holocaust survivor offspring and those of the comparison group.

In gathering evidence of the ability of Holocaust survivors to function as parents, the team noted that survivors had a relatively lower level of education than the controls. However, their children achieved more years of education than the comparison group.

The authors conclude that although the Holocaust-survivor parents suffered adversity in their lives, they protected their children's mental health up to adulthood. They suggest that rather than continue to explore the domain of ill-mental health among the offspring of Holocaust survivors, research should focus on the resilience of their parents.

Psychopathology and Other Health Dimensions among the Offspring of Holocaust Survivors: Results from the Israel National Health Survey. Levav I, Levinson D, Radomislensky I, Shemesh A, Kohn, R. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci, Vol 44 No. 2 (2007) 144-151.

To obtain a copy of this paper, visit: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18080651?dopt=Abstract 

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