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Indigenous Topics

What is Intergenerational Trauma?

One of the lingering effects of the Residential School system is intergenerational trauma. Many researchers have discovered that Indigenous children of survivors present traumatic behaviors, like depression, severe anxiety, and PTSD, despite not physically attending residential schools. While some of these cases are explained as “learned behavior,” some cases are understood as inherited (innate) behaviors.

The New Brunswick Community Collage explains intergenerational trauma:

  • For Indigenous Peoples in Canada, intergenerational trauma has been passed on through generations. Today, it is embedded into the very fabric of some communities. Colonizers first created the harm and compounded the trauma by outlawing the Indigenous culture practices that could heal the harm done in the 1884 amendment to the Indian Act. Therefore, the impact from trauma occurs both as a result of the trauma itself and from the inability to undertake healing practices. What remained was the pain, the inability to heal and all of the accompanying impacts. Family structure, rather than being based on the kinship model where everyone had responsibility for everyone else (sisters and brothers) became based on the learned and conditioned behaviours associated with trauma.

    Today, Indigenous communities have long journeys against this systemic trauma.

    Understanding Intergenerational Trauma. (2021). New Brunswick Community College (NBCC). Retrieved June 2021, from

Use these terms to further your research:

Generational Trauma Historic Trauma
Transgenerational Trauma Multi-Generational Trauma

Intergenerational Trauma

Select resources from the U of C Catalogue

Chief Moon-Riley, Kat, Copeland, Jennifer L, Metz, Gerlinde A.S, & Currie, Cheryl L. (2019). The biological impacts of Indigenous residential school attendance on the next generation. SSM - Population Health7, 100343–100343.

O’Neill, Linda, Fraser, Tina, Kitchenham, Andrew, & McDonald, Verna. (2018). Hidden Burdens: a Review of Intergenerational, Historical and Complex Trauma, Implications for Indigenous Families. Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma11(2), 173–186.

The Healing Foundation. (2018, July 26). Intergenerational Trauma Animation [Video]. YouTube.

Historica Canada. (2020, March 9). Intergenerational Trauma: Residential Schools [Video]. Youtube.