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Intergenerational transmission of trauma due to war and displacement

Clara Neumann

Veröffentlicht am 29.07.2018.

socialnet Materialien. Reihe 2: Akademische Abschlussarbeiten

Bachelorarbeit zur Abschlussprüfung an der Hochschule Darmstadt Fachbereich Gesellschaftswissenschaften und Soziale Arbeit
Erstreferentin: Prof. Dr. K. Luise Läzer
Zweitreferent: Frau Prof. Dr. Viviana Langher
Sommersemester 2018
Note: 1,0.


The thesis provides answers to the question of ‘how social work can help prevent intergenerational transmission of trauma‘. The core topics are the different phases of a migration journey that can all affect the mental health of refugees, mechanisms and theories on the transmission of trauma from parents onto their children and how prevention programmes can look like, working with refugees. During the paper it will be referred to a practical example of a refugee accommodation in Athens in 2017 for a better understanding of the reader, as well as a personal reflection on how theory
and practice can be combined.

The main findings of the thesis are the following five principles for possible prevention

  1. Creating safe and reliable structures, in order to re-establish safety, security and protection and at the same time stability and predictability;
  2. Creating interpersonal relationships;
  3. Rebuilding trust and faith in humanity by empathising with the refugee‘s traumatic experiences;
  4. Encouraging engagement and participation and giving the refugee a meaningful role within the programme;
  5. Re-establishing existential values and dignity by implementing meaningfulactivities.

The thesis starts examining how war and displacement can be seen as a cause of trauma, trying to cover the complexities that interfere with the mental health of refugees. For this the “The Adaptation and Development after Persecution and Trauma” (ADAPT) model of Silove (2013) had been made of use, as well as the description of the three stages of migration: the pre-migration period, during migration as well as the post-migration period. The paper explains how all the stages contribute to the disruption of the five fundamental pillars, explained by the model of Silove: Safety and security, bonds and networks, justice, roles and identities, and lastly, existential and meaning. This knowledge will help in understanding a possible recovery process. The following subchapter focuses more on mental health of refugees, particularly trauma. While the next chapter analyses possible mechanisms of intergenerational trauma transmission, the focus lies on psychodynamic factors and mother-child interaction, referring to concept of the attachment theory. Chapter five explores possible prevention of intergenerational transmission of trauma, in a not so traditional clinical setting. Firstly, early childhood development and the importance of early prevention will be highlighted. Thereafter existing prevention programmes in the field of working with refugees are introduced: Early Steps, First Steps and the Step-by-Step programme; as well as the concept of a child friendly space by UNICEF. The own contribution, besides literature research, has be the combination of the psychoanalytical based prevention programme “Step-byStep”, of the Sigmund Freud Institute in Frankfurt, with the ADAPT model of Silove. Lastly, the paper covers some of the challenges for social work that arise in this field.


  1. Bachelorarbeit (pdf)

Clara Neumann
Sozialarbeiterin im internationalen Bereich
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Clara Neumann: Intergenerational transmission of trauma due to war and displacement. Veröffentlicht am 29.07.2018 in socialnet Materialien unter, Datum des Zugriffs 05.08.2020.

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