Offspring psychological and biological correlates of parental posttraumatic stress: Review of the literature and research agenda

Ellen W. Leen-Feldner*, Matthew T. Feldner, Ashley Arehart Knapp, Liviu Bunaciu, Heidemarie Blumenthal, Ananda B. Amstadter

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

102 Scopus citations

Abstract

Millions of individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are parents. A burgeoning literature suggests that offspring of parents with this condition may be at increased risk for psychological problems. The current paper provides an integrative and comprehensive review of the diverse research literature examining the sequelae of parental posttraumatic stress among offspring. Over 100 studies that evaluated psychological and/or biological variables among children of parents with PTSD are reviewed. Findings suggest parental symptoms of posttraumatic stress are uniquely related to an array of offspring outcomes, including internalizing-type problems, general behavioral problems, and altered hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning. Although very little work has directly evaluated mechanisms of transmission, there is increasing support for genetic and epigenetic effects as well as parenting behaviors. These and other mechanisms are discussed; drawing upon findings from other literatures to consider how parental PTSD may impart psychobiological vulnerability upon offspring. We conclude with a detailed discussion of the methodological strengths and challenges of the extant research, along with a recommended agenda for future research in this important area of study.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1106-1133
Number of pages28
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2013

Keywords

  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Offspring
  • Parental PTSD
  • Parenting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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