Journal of Child & Adolescent Trauma

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 173–186 | Cite as

Hidden Burdens: a Review of Intergenerational, Historical and Complex Trauma, Implications for Indigenous Families

  • Linda O’Neill
  • Tina Fraser
  • Andrew Kitchenham
  • Verna McDonald


Drawing on decades of work as allies with Indigenous families and communities in Canada, the authors present a review of literature on intergenerational, historical trauma and the effects of early trauma. Included in the review are critical considerations as to whether understanding of stressed human capacity, as described by family members of various generations affected by traumatic events, may be increased through exploring the developmental implications of complex trauma. Research on brain-based effects of early trauma and work from the field of epigenetics may contribute other components to the understanding of complex, intergenerational impacts of multiple trauma contexts. Informed support for individuals and families combined with political advocacy at a systems level is critical in intergenerational trauma work in order to break historic patterns affecting family development and interactions.


Intergenerational Historical trauma Complex trauma Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) Residential schools Aboriginal 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000.



Conflict of Interest

All authors declare that they have no competing interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda O’Neill
    • 1
  • Tina Fraser
    • 2
  • Andrew Kitchenham
    • 3
  • Verna McDonald
    • 4
  1. 1.School of Education, Counselling Program, School of EducationUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  2. 2.School of Education, Aboriginal EducationUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  3. 3.School of Education, Special EducationUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada
  4. 4.School of Education, Teacher EducationUniversity of Northern British ColumbiaPrince GeorgeCanada

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