Intergenerational Transmission of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder in Australian Vietnam Veterans’ Daughters and Sons : The Effect of Family Emotional Climate While Growing Up

Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military veterans increases the risk of PTSD in their offspring, a concept known as “intergenerational transmission;” however, the mechanism by which this transmission may occur is, as yet, undetermined.


The present study included a nonclinical sample of 197 Australian Army veterans of the Vietnam War who were interviewed 17 years before in-person interviews of their adult daughters (n = 163) and sons (n = 120) were conducted. Veterans’ PTSD symptoms were assessed using the Mississippi Scale for Combat-Related PTSD. Approximately 17 years later, offspring PTSD symptoms were assessed using the Clinician-Administered PTSD Scale for DSM-IV. In addition, offspring described the family emotional climate during their youth; responses were coded using the Family Affective Attitude Rating Scale (FAARS) to produce scale scores of veterans’ negative, positive, and family relationship styles. A path analysis was conducted via structural equation modeling to test for significant path coefficients between veteran PTSD, family emotional climate, and offspring PTSD symptoms. For daughters, significant path coefficients were observed between veteran PTSD scores and FAARS scores, path coefficient = -.268; FAARS scores and offspring CAPS severity scores, path coefficient = -.223; and veteran PTSD scores and daughters’ CAPS severity scores, path coefficient = .186. No satisfactory model could be found for sons.


The results suggest that a positive emotional climate while growing up may be a significant protective factor against the development of PTSD in veterans’ daughters, but other factors remain significant in veteran-to-offspring intergenerational transmission.

Brian I. O'Toole | 2022
In: Journal of Traumatic Stress ; ISSN: 1573-6598 | 35 | 1 | February | 128-137
Adolescents, Adults, Australians, Epidemiology, Family Members, Intergenerational Effects, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotrauma, PTSD (en), Veterans, Vietnam War