Domestic Violence & The Cycle of Abuse: Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma

» Posted by on Apr 7, 2015 in Alpha Blog | 0 comments

Domestic Violence & The Cycle of Abuse: Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma

Domestic violence and abuse are among the top precursors for developing depression and anxiety during adolescence and later in adult life. Sometimes the violence is between partners, other times it’s between parents and children and often it’s a family dynamic between all members of the household.

Abuse defined

There are different forms of domestic violence and abusive behaviors, some easier to define than others. Generally, any behavior that uses one person’s power to exert control over another person’s physical and/or emotional safety is considered abusive. Physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse are all preconditions for people to develop low self-esteem, body image issues, relationship difficulties, anger issues, substance abuse issues, severe anxiety, depression, bipolar and other psychiatric disorders in adulthood.

Transgenerational transmission of trauma

From a psychoanalytic point of view, there is a reason why people become abusive. It is often an unconscious attempt to cope with the abuse they themselves experienced as children/adolescents and to turn a passive, painful and horrific experience into an active one. Thus, the “abusers” have all the power and control as opposed to the feelings of fear and helplessness they experienced when it was done to them. (This of course is very generalized and rather simplified statement for the purposes of this blog. To explore this in detail as it pertains to your individual experience and history, I recommend psychoanalytic psychotherapy.)

In addition, it is not unusual for people, who grew up in abusive relationships and domestic violent environment to recreate this experience in adulthood and unconsciously choose a violent partner and recreate the dysfunctional home they grew up in. This is not putting a blame on anyone for anything. It is simply stating that trauma has its way of repeating itself from one generation to another (what we call transgenerational transmission of trauma), unless you put an end to it and address it in psychoanalysis or psychotherapy.

The cycle of abuse repeats itself

The cycle depicted in the infographic below, the cycle of abuse, repeats itself not only within the context of a single relationship but also across generations in an unconscious repetition from parents to children. So, if you are finding yourself in an abusive relationship, it is important to try and put an end to the cycle of abuse by removing yourself and your children from the environment and by finding a professional you can talk to. Don’t be afraid and be the ONE to break the cycle!

By Mihaela Bernard, MA, LCPC

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 6 Apr 2015
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