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Alternative Title

Intergenerational trauma and a caregiver's ability to provide support to their child during trauma treatment

Publication Date


First Advisor

Joyce Everett

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School for Social Work


Intergenerational trauma, Interpersonal trauma, Parental trauma, Child abuse, Child therapy, Trauma treatment, Caregiver, Caregiver support, Parental involvement


A caregiver’s ability to be involved and support their child in trauma therapy is essential for the child’s therapeutic success. This study explored how intergenerational trauma affects a caregiver’s ability to support their child in trauma therapy. Using a qualitative research design 18 therapists that work with child trauma were interviewed. Analysis of narrative data was used to identify common challenges. Therapists report they observed caregivers who had unresolved trauma becoming triggered by their involvement in their child’s trauma therapy, leading to trauma related symptoms and/or behaviors. These included re-experiencing trauma, emotional dysregulation, altered perceptions, selfprotection, and difficulties maintaining the caregiver role. Therapists indicate that this often led to children taking on aspects of a caregiving role. Parental, child, familial, and system factors that increase the risk of challenges, along with strengths common to this population were also found. Recommendations for further research, clinical practice, education, and policy were made.


©2021 Heather Gregory. Access limited to the Smith College community and other researchers while on campus. Smith College community members also may access from off-campus using a Smith College log-in. Other off-campus researchers may request a copy through Interlibrary Loan for personal use.




238 pages. Includes bibliographical references (pages 194-226)