Parents play an important role in socialising children, and can transfer resources as well as values, attitudes and behavioural patterns to their children (1). Through this, economic and social circumstances can be inherited, or transmitted, from parents to children.
Risk and/or Protective Factor
Transmission of advantage can be a protective factor for mental health. Parents with higher socio-economic status are able to provide their children with more resources, live in areas with better schools and financially assist them throughout university (2). Through this, children can maintain their socio-economic status and avoid financial insecurity, which is a risk factor for mental health.
On the other hand, disadvantages can also be transmitted, which are risk factors for mental health difficulties. In relation to economic disadvantage, parental unemployment and receipt of social assistance has been linked to children’s unemployment and receipt welfare benefits later in life, which are both risk factors for mental health (1). Children can also be affected by their parents economic status if their parents pass away. High funeral costs can exacerbate economic difficulties in children or generate debt (3); which are risk factors for mental health difficulties.
Similarly, social disadvantages, such as parental exposure to trauma, are risk factors for child mental health. For example, children of holocaust survivors have been suggested to have a greater predisposition to posttraumatic stress disorder and risk of depression (4,5). Intergenerational transmission of trauma has also been seen in individuals who experienced forced migration and war (6,7). Parents who were abused in their childhood were reportedly more likely to engage in abusive behaviours towards their children (8); creating a harmful cycle.
1. Vauhkonen T, Kallio J, Kauppinen TM, Erola J. Intergenerational accumulation of social disadvantages across generations in young adulthood. Res Soc Stratif Mobil. 2017 Apr 1;48:42–52.
2. Ermisch J, Jäntti M, Smeeding T, Wilson J. Advantage in Comparative Perspective. In: J. E, M. J, T. S, editors. From Parents to Children: The Intergenerational Transmission of Advantage [Internet]. Russell Sage Foundation.; 2012. p. 3–31. Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7758/9781610447805.5
3. What is funeral poverty? | Fair Funerals Campaign [Internet]. Fair Funerals. [cited 2021 Mar 24]. Available from: https://fairfuneralscampaign.org.uk/content/what-funeral-poverty
4. Yehuda R, Halligan SL, Bierer LM. Relationship of parental trauma exposure and PTSD to PTSD, depressive and anxiety disorders in offspring. J Psychiatr Res [Internet]. 2001 [cited 2021 Feb 8];35(5):261–70. Available from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11591428/
5. Kellerman NP. Psychopathology in children of Holocaust survivors: a review of the research literature. Isr J Psychiatry Relat Sci. 2001;38(1):36–46.
6. Lev–Wiesel R. Intergenerational transmission of trauma across three generations: A preliminary study. Qual Soc Work. 2007;6(1):75–94.
7. Dekel R, Goldblatt H. Is There Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma? The Case of Combat Veterans’ Children. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2010;78(3):281–9.
8. Pears KC, Capaldi DM. Intergenerational transmission of abuse: A two-generational prospective study of an at-risk sample. Child Abus Negl. 2001 Nov 1;25(11):1439–61.