Between the primary ages of 3-8 humans are in a developmental stage which prevents them from seeing themselves as separate from their parents. [citation needed] Inevitably, our parents, family, peers, and teachers have behaviours that make us feel negative emotions. Negative emotions can arise from things like unreasonable expectations, conditional love, neglect, or coercion. Because we’re unable to separate ourselves, we develop behaviours called Coping Mechanisms, that enable us to survive these negative situations.

Eventually we mature into adults and develop the ability to process events and interactions that make us feel uncomfortable. But because we weren’t able to process the negative events we experienced in childhood, many of those coping mechanisms remain with us.

These coping mechanisms can serve us well, our they can cause us difficulties living with ourselves or in society. It’s only when they cause us trouble that we’d describe coping mechanisms as unhealthy coping mechanisms

Intergenerational Trauma Transfer

Often our parents experience trauma, that results in one of 3 outcomes when parenting us as children:

  1. Our parents reproduce the behaviour that caused their trauma
  2. Our parents produce an opposite or compensatory behaviour to the one that caused their trauma
  3. Our parents, through introspection, therapy, or life experience, realize the parental behaviour that caused their trauma and develop new parenting methods to prevent trauma transfer

In scenarios 1 and 2, our parents pass down, through behavioural reinforcement, the same traumas that they themselves had as children. Thus the cycle of intergenerational trauma transfer begins.

What do we do about it?