Send to

Choose Destination
J Psychiatr Res. 2008 Oct;42(13):1104-11. doi: 10.1016/j.jpsychires.2008.01.002. Epub 2008 Feb 20.

Maternal, not paternal, PTSD is related to increased risk for PTSD in offspring of Holocaust survivors.

Author information

Traumatic Stress Studies Division, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center, OOMH, 130 West Kingsbridge Road, Bronx, NY 10468, United States.



A significant association between parental PTSD and the occurrence of PTSD in offspring has been noted, consistent with the idea that risk for the development of PTSD is transmitted from parent to child. Two recent reports linking maternal PTSD and low offspring cortisol prompted us to examine the relative contributions of maternal vs. paternal PTSD in the prediction of PTSD and other psychiatric diagnoses in offspring.


One hundred seventeen men and 167 women, recruited from the community, were evaluated using a comprehensive psychiatric battery designed to identify traumatic life experiences and lifetime psychiatric diagnoses. 211 of these subjects were the adult offspring of Holocaust survivors and 73 were demographically comparable Jewish controls. Participants were further subdivided based on whether their mother, father, neither, or both parents met diagnostic criteria for lifetime PTSD.


A higher prevalence of lifetime PTSD, mood, anxiety disorders, and to a lesser extent, substance abuse disorders, was observed in offspring of Holocaust survivors than controls. The presence of maternal PTSD was specifically associated with PTSD in adult offspring of Holocaust survivors. However, other psychiatric diagnoses did not show specific effects associated with maternal PTSD.


The tendency for maternal PTSD to make a greater contribution than paternal PTSD to PTSD risk suggests that classic genetic mechanisms are not the sole model of transmission, and paves way for the speculation that epigenetic factors may be involved. In contrast, PTSD in any parent contributes to risk for depression, and parental traumatization is associated with increased anxiety disorders in offspring.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center