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Transmission of trauma : the defensive styles of children of Holocaust survivors / Marc E. Klein

Publication | Library Call Number: RC451.4.H62 K565 1987

Over the past ten years there has been an increasing interest in studying the children of Holocaust survivors. The present study was designed to divide the seemingly heterogeneous group into more homogeneous subgroups based on family coping styles as outlined by Dr. Yves Danieli. The four family types consist of the Numb, Victim, Fighter, and Those Who Made It types. It was hypothesized that due to the traumatic experiences endured by the survivors a characteristic survivor coping style would emerge which would then generalize into how the survivor perceives and interacts in the world. This characteristic style would then be transmitted to the children through processes consistent with social replication and control mastery theory such that the child will have a characteristic defensive style which is reflective of and determined by the corresponding parental style. Predictions were also made regarding the differential effects of the four family types and reported level of distress. Fifty-four volunteers were recruited from across the country. These individuals had either one or both parents survive a concentration camp or labor camp. They were given a Background Questionnaire, Children of Survivor Questionnaire, the Defense Mechanism Inventory, and the Symptom Checklist-90 to complete. In addition, six participants also agreed to an in-depth interview. The analysis of the data indicated that two of the subgroups, Fighter and Victim, emerged clearly. Speculations were made regarding the remaining groups, the Numb and Those Who Made It types. It was suggested that the family types may be viewed as opposite ends of a continuum with the Victim-Assimilated dimension ranging from the insulated to the acculturated and the Numb-Fighter dimension ranging from passive internalization to active externalization. Using this conceptualization, the defensive styles of the children occurred largely as predicted. The Victim type was related to the Projection defense, the Numb type related to the Turning Against Self defense, and the Assimilated type related to the Intellectualization defense. The predicted relationship between the Fighter type and Turning Against Object defense was not found and instead the Fighter type was found to significantly relate to the Intellectualization defense. Finally, as predicted, those in the Victim and Numb groups showed a higher level of symptom distress than the Fighter or Assimilated types. The results were interpreted from a family dynamics perspective, and included an analysis of the four family types. It was concluded that the children from the Fighter and Assimilated types were more effectively able to distance themselves from their parents' trauma than those from the Numb or Victim groups. The information gathered from the interviews also served to support and confirm these conclusions.

Klein, Marc E. (Marc Elliot)
Includes bibliographical references (p. 100-103)
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Record last modified: 2018-05-29 16:28:00
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