Invisible Victims and Public Health: Epistemic Injustices in the Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma

  • María del Mar Cabezas
  • Carlos Pitillas
Conference paper


This chapter applies the concept of hermeneutical injustice to the social and clinical misconstructions regarding the case of intergenerational transmission of trauma and subtle relational trauma, as well as to the lack of a child centered perspective, obscuring so not only the social study and understanding of the problem, but the victim’s skills to make sense of her own experiences from generation to generation.

Mechanisms underlying the intergenerational transmission of trauma, as well as the transformations of trauma across generations, are outlined. Traumatized children may adopt relational strategies that differ in form from the harmful treatment they have received from caregivers. This may translate into behavioral patterns that seem unrelated to the trauma experienced by the child within her attachment relationships, and thus compromise the ability to recognize, prevent and treat that harm effectively, becoming so a problem of justice and public mental health.

In order to overcome the invisibility involved in these cases and its negative impact on public health policies, the chapter defends that those cases constitute an instance of epistemic injustice. Several normative problems and paradoxes concerning the ethics of child health, such as the questions of thresholds in public health policies or the conflicts on parental responsibility, are addressed through the lens of epistemic injustice. As a result, we advocate, contrary to reactive views, for inclusive preventive measures as a matter of justice to avoid the perpetuation of invisible injustices.


Epistemic injustice Recognition Parental responsibility Attachment Intergenerational trauma 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • María del Mar Cabezas
    • 1
  • Carlos Pitillas
    • 2
  1. 1.Facultad de FilosofíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Facultad de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Departamento de PsicologíaUniversidad Pontificia de ComillasMadridSpain

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