Perceptions of aging among middle-aged offspring of traumatized parents: The effects of parental Holocaust-related communication and secondary traumatization

  • Shrira A
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Abstract

Objectives: Traumatized parents may transmit anxieties of physical deterioration and demise to their offspring. These anxieties can amplify negative perceptions of the aging process when the offspring enter old age. The current study examined how middle-aged offspring of Holocaust survivors (OHS) recount trauma-related communication by their parents, and how these reports are related to offspring's perceptions of their aging process. Method: The study included 450 respondents at the age range of 50-67 (mean age = 57.5, SD = 4.6): 300 OHS and 150 comparisons. Participants reported parental communication of the Holocaust, completed measures of subjective successful aging, aging and death anxieties, and reported secondary traumatization assessing symptoms, developed as a result of a close and continuous relationship with a traumatized parent. Results: Latent profile analysis identified two profiles of parental Holocaust-related communication: intrusive and informative. Offspring who reported intrusive parental communication about the Holocaust perceived themselves as aging less successfully and were more anxious of aging and death than comparisons. Offspring who reported informative parental communication and comparisons did not differ in perceptions of aging. Secondary traumatization mediated these group differences, meaning, intrusive parental communication was related to higher secondary traumatization, which in turn was related to less favorable perceptions of aging. Conclusion: These findings allude to the possibility that secondary traumatization mold negative perceptions of the aging process among middle-aged offspring of traumatized parents. Mental health practitioners may help OHS process fragmented and intrusive remnants of parental trauma, thereby diminishing secondary traumatization, and promoting more adaptive perceptions of aging.

Author-supplied keywords

  • parental communication
  • perceptions of aging
  • secondary traumatization
  • trauma transmission

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Authors

  • Amit Shrira

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