Corresponding Author Information: Lauren Loughlin

Session Abstract: BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Research on parental traumas showed mediating effects of insecure paternal attachment in transmitting intergenerational trauma to young adult children (Spiel & Szymanski, 2018). Further studies demonstrated a gender effect in assessing impact of intergenerational parental trauma. For example, Godbout et al. (2019) found that father’s trauma was related to more insecure attachment and increased psychopathology in female, but not male children. Our archival study explores gender differences in mediating impact of insecure paternal attachment as demonstrated by Spiel and Szymanski, by specifically addressing if insecure paternal attachment to fathers mediates the relationship between parental traumas and adult children’s mental health functioning and PTSD symptomatology differently for young adult female children than young adult male children.

SUBJECTS: 985 undergraduates from an urban college with mean age 19.15 (SD=1.64) participated. The sample consisted of 65.99% females and 34.01% males, with 44.6% reporting parental trauma history.

METHODS AND MATERIALS: The Caregiver Stressful Life Events Screening Questionnaire, Stressful Life Events Screening Questionnaire, Inventory of Parent and Peer Attachment, Brief Symptom Inventory, and Posttraumatic Checklist-5 were administered online.

ANALYSES: Controlling for participants’ trauma, Hayes PROCESS model was used for mediation analyses.

RESULTS: For females, paternal insecure attachment fully mediated relationships between parental trauma and Global Severity Index of BSI (c’ path, b= 32.59, t(650)= 1.50, p=0.13), BSI Depression, BSI Anxiety, and BSI OCD. The remaining three BSI dimensions showed partial mediation. PTSD-Total (c’ path, b= 32.71, t(650)=1.47, p=0.14) and all PCL-5 Clusters were also full mediations. For males, paternal insecure attachment was not a significant mediator between parental traumas and any mental health or PTSD symptoms. Maternal attachment was not significant in any mediation.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings show that insecure paternal attachment is a mechanism of trauma transmission for young women, but not for young men, thus demonstrating a gender effect. Results suggest that in families with parental traumas, daughters’ relationships with their fathers might be a crucial factor impacting their traumatization. Future research should further explore these gender differences in intergenerational trauma transmission, particularly emphasizing a lack of impact for males.


Lauren Loughlin, MA | Adelphi University, Garden City, NY

Shira Spiel, PhD | Adelphi University, Garden City, NY

Kate Szymanski, PhD | Adelphi University, Garden City, NY

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