Objective: The presence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in trauma survivors has been linked with family dysfunction and symptoms in their children, including lower self-esteem, higher disorder rates and symptoms resembling those of the traumatized parent. This study aims to examine the phenomenon of intergenerational transfer of PTSD in an Australian context.
Method: 50 children (aged 16–30) of 50 male Vietnam veterans, subgrouped according to their fathers’ PTSD status, were compared with an age-matched group of 33 civilian peers. Participants completed questionnaires with measures of self-esteem, PTSD symptomatology and family functioning.
Results: Contrary to expectations, no significant differences were found between the self-esteem and PTSD symptomatology scores for any offspring groups. Unhealthy family functioning is the area in which the effect of the veteran’s PTSD appears to manifest itself, particularly the inability of the family both to experience appropriate emotional responses and to solve problems effectively within and outside the family unit.
Conclusion: Methodological refinements and further focus on the role of wives/mothers in buffering the impact of veterans’ PTSD symptomatology on their children are indicated. Further effort to support families of Veterans with PTSD is also indicated.