PTSD passes from mother to child

Israeli study reinforces the importance of evaluating and treating parental responses in time of stress.

A new Israeli study shows that preschool children have a high probability of developing substantial post-traumatic symptoms if their mothers suffered anxiety as well.

The Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and ASHALIM-JDC joint study interviewed 160 mothers of preschool children (four to six-and-a-half years) about post-traumatic and psychosomatic symptoms among their children and also their own response to 2008′s Grad missile attacks on Beersheva during Operation Cast Lead.

The study showed that 8.4 percent of mothers and 21% of children were suffering substantially from PTSD symptoms. There was no association between the diagnosis of post-traumatic symptoms and socio-demographic variables. The only risk factor that was associated with the diagnosis of PTSD among children was having a mother who also suffered from these symptoms.

The study came about after a team of researchers from the Department of Epidemiology and Health Services Evaluation at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, led by Profs. Danit Shahar and Drora Fraser, were researching the nutrition habits of preschool children in the southern city in 2008. In the course of the study, Operation Cast Lead began and families being evaluated were exposed to ongoing missile attacks from the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Vered Kaufman-Shriqui, who was conducting the research as part of her doctoral thesis, turned to the Preschool Psychiatric Unit at Soroka University Medical Center and, in collaboration with Dr. Michal Faroy and Dr. Gal Meiri, broadened her study to include the mental state of the children as well.

This study reinforces the existing body of knowledge regarding the importance of evaluating and treating parental responses in time of stress. Parents are often the key to understanding children’s responses generally and specifically in times of stress. The study also highlights the close interrelations between ‘body and soul’ among children and adults.

The research paper was published in the Journal of Depression & Anxiety. Psychologists Dr. Ilan Harpaz-Rotem and Dr. Robert Pietrzak from Yale University, and Dr. Nomi Werbeloff from Department of Psychiatry, Sheba Medical Center, Ramat-Gan contributed to the development of the paper.

The study was conducted in collaboration with and funded by the “Association for Planning & Development of Services for Children and Youth at Risk and their Families, American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (ASHALIM-JDC).”

Illustration of PTSD by Shutterstock.com.

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About Viva Sarah Press

Viva Sarah Press is an associate editor and writer at ISRAEL21c. She has extensive experience in reporting/editing in the print, online and broadcast fields. She has jumped out of a plane, ducked rockets and been attacked by a baboon all in the name of a good story. Her work has been published by international media outlets including Israel Television, CNN, Reuters, The Jerusalem Post and Time Out.