The Impact of Parent Torture and Family Functioning on Youth Adjustment in War-Affected Families: A Path Analysis Describing Intergenerational Trauma and the Family System

Sarah J. Hoffman, Maria M. Vukovich, Jayne Fulkerson, Abigail Gewirtz, Cheryl L. Robertson, Windy M. Fredkove, Joseph Gaugler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The direct exposure to physical or psychological trauma from torture or war leads to well-documented individual health consequences. Less understood are the inclusive and intergenerational effects of war trauma on family systems and youth adjustment. The purpose was to examine mechanisms in war-affected families that explained the significant emotional and behavioral consequences of intergenerational trauma in youth through the use of multiple methods. Quantitative assessments of maternal and paternal caregivers and youth characterized associations between parent torture, parent mental health distress, parent physical health problems, family functioning, and youth adjustment. Narrative statements further contextualized processes through which the trauma of a parent impacted youth and family systems. The research was conducted in partnership with local, refugee-serving community-based organizations. The study sample included parents and youth in 96 Karen families, originating from Burma in Southeast Asia, who had been resettled to the United States through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program. Path analysis results indicated that parent torture (β = −0.173) had statistically significant negative direct effects on youth adjustment. Parent torture had a negative indirect effect on youth adjustment through the mental health (β = −0.345) and physical health problems of parents (β = −0.305), and youth gender (β = 0.126) and trauma exposure of youth (β = −0.048). Family functioning type demonstrated a positive direct effect on youth adjustment (β = 0.449). Family type had an indirect effect on youth adjustment through youth gender (β = 0.142), youth trauma exposure (β = −0.165), parent physical health problems (β = −0.202), and parent mental health (β = 0.509). The current study developed and tested the first model of intergenerational trauma’s effects on the adjustment of Karen refugee youth. Results emphasize that individual recovery from torture must be accompanied by adjunct interventions focused on family systems and youth adjustment, to holistically address intergenerational sequala of trauma.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)288-300
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Family Nursing
Volume29
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number K12HD055887. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Funding Information:
We acknowledge the essential contributions in early project phases by the Center for Victims of Torture, headquartered in St. Paul, Minnesota. Specifically, we thank the Director of Research, Craig Higson Smith for his guidance and expertise. We thank the Karen Organization of Minnesota for key project support. We attribute the depth and richness of the data, in part, to our interpreter, Ehtaguy Zar. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: Research reported in this publication was supported by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number K12HD055887. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2023.

Keywords

  • adolescent
  • family
  • intergenerational trauma
  • refugees
  • social adjustment
  • torture

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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