The emotional state of parents influences their children, for better or for worse. If the parents suffer, they will transmit that suffering to their offspring through different channels. One of them is epigenetics.
Epigenetics analyzes the factors that regulate the expression of genes without causing a modification in the DNA sequence. Thanks to this science, we now know that some environmental factors can modify the expression of certain genes throughout our lives, making us more likely, for example, to develop some diseases or psychological disorders.
Science Explains How We “Inherit” Suffering From Our Parents
Thanks to military records, investigators learned whether the soldiers had married, where they had lived and whether they had children. Thus they collected information on 6,500 war veterans and 20,000 children and people of the same generation, but whose parents had not participated in the war.
Their finding was devastating: Soldiers’ children were twice as likely to die early compared to people whose parents had not gone to war, even though they shared the same socioeconomic status and prior health.
An even more startling discovery was that the children prisoners of war had after surviving the harsh conditions of the camp were up to 2.2 times more likely to die earlier than their siblings.
The researchers think that the environmental exposure to harsh conditions and the psychological suffering that this generated could induce molecular changes in the gametes of the parents that, in turn, affect the behavior of their children. In fact, it has been proven that in animals, exposure to stress generates changes in the DNA profile that are transmitted to their children.
Obviously, psychological factors are also likely to play a role, such as the fact that parents who have suffered major trauma could infect their children with a more pessimistic view of the world. Pessimism and depression, especially in the early stages of life, are known to generate aversive behaviors in different environments and decrease life expectancy.
his means that the children of people who have suffered post-traumatic stress disorder acquire from their parents a peculiar coping style that generates maladaptive behaviors and a feeling of helplessness.
Effect Of The Second Generation
The second generation effect refers to the transgenerational transmission (from parents to children) of the psychological consequences and styles of coping with stress.
The researchers found that the daughters of people who survived the Holocaust were more vulnerable to stressful situations and reacted more negatively to their illness, compared to the other people who participated in the study.
These psychologists concluded that the second generation has fewer psychological resources to deal with stressful situations. Being less resilient and having a more negative view of the world, influenced by the suffering that their parents experienced, these people are more vulnerable from a physical and psychological point of view.