Intergenerational Trauma in A

Part 1 – After you complete reading/viewing of all this week’s course content, please answer, in at least 8-10 sentences: Why is it important to pay attention to intergenerational trauma? In other words, how do hardships and traumas of one Asian American generation affect subsequent generations? Support your answer with at least THREE sources from the week. If you wish, one of these sources may be drawn from your personal experience should you wish to share.

Part 2 – After you post, comment on three peers’ posts following netiquette expectations (see syllabus) in at least 3-4 sentences. Some suggestions for peer responses are as follows:

  • affirmations (e.g. “great job describing/pointing out/analyzing…”,), or
  • questions (e.g. “what do you think…can you clarify….?),or
  • sharing of related points (e.g. “what you describe reminds me of…”), or
  • generative differences (e.g. “I see what you mean, but I thought the opposite because….”), or
  • referrals (e.g. “since you describe/like this, I think you will also enjoy/find interesting….”


1.Intergenerational trauma is important to understand and recognize because it isn’t always apparent. It affects individuals differently and learning how to assess it is difficult when we don’t have resources to do so. Socioeconomic oppressions funnels trauma and hardships that many POC communities face. When communities are underfunded, the lack of resources, opportunities, and support create a lot of stress. It’s evident that there are detrimental effects to these systemic problems; for example, “one study found that those who were exposed to community violence reported higher rates of trauma symptoms” (Maffini & Pham, p. 588, 2016). Impoverished communities are also underfunded in education and recreation which is a factor that preserves the school-to-gang pipeline. Looking at the big picture, when opportunities are decreased, living paycheck to paycheck is the reality. Students may work jobs to help their families out while attending school, and eventually work becomes more important than education as they need to survive. Not only are Asian communities affected by this epidemic, the stigma surrounding it makes it even more difficult to find resolutions. From Changing the Perspective of Mental Illness in Asian Culture, Timothy Xu speaks from personal experience.

“This toxic cultural Asian mentality caused me to be ashamed of my illness, to ignore, and pretend that it didn’t even exist. As a result, the longer I was on my medication, the more and more my parents encouraged me to lower my dose, even though that is the opposite of what you should do” (Xu, 13:39)

It is especially apparent in Asian communities to dismiss mental illness because, most of the time, it’s parents who have “been through worse”. We need to unpack the trauma they went through and it’s evident that they have repressed their experiences. Second, we need better mental health resources to effectively communicate what constitutes a mental illness and help support individuals who don’t have a strong support system. Lastly, Lillian So explained how the suburban kids made fun of her as a city girl, viewing the city as a place that is “ghetto”, which created a lot of trauma for her (So, 7:40). She explained the two reactions people will have in response to such spite and hatred: shut down or leave. For her, she left, and it helped her, but those who shut down in response process trauma differently and leave them in an uncomfortable space to speak upon it. Ultimately, it worsens when your relatives choose to look past it because of its stigma.

2.Many Asian immigrant parents are likely to have encountered potentially traumatic situations before arriving in the United States due to extensive conflict, political instability, and poverty in Asia in recent decades. The psychological and emotional impacts of recent wars in their homelands have been experienced by recent populations arriving in the United States from Southeast Asia and elsewhere on the Asian continent (Maffini and Pham 13). Many Southeast Asian migrants are also still living in an environment marked by persistent poverty, drugs, and violence, resulting in a new form of cultural trauma. Intergenerational trauma is significant because a parent or grandparent who has never fully recovered from or addressed their own trauma may find it difficult to give emotional support to a family member who is experiencing their own trauma. This trauma has its roots in a collective level catastrophe such as a war, natural disasters, or genocide. As “collective emotional and psychological injury,” transgenerational or historical trauma is described as the subjective experience and remembering of events in an individual’s mind or in the life of a community that passed from adults to children in cyclic cycles (A Life Worthy of Our Breath, 28:22). The trauma’s effects on survivors have an influence on relations with the next generation, who are still processing the trauma their parents went through. Coping and adaptation methods are simply passed down through the generations (Pain, shame, and trauma in Asian American church life, 6:53). Therefore, a person’s sense of self and self-worth is anchored by cultural identity and cultural conceptions of reality. 

3.We need to pay attention to intergenerational trauma because of its role in mental health. Intergenerational trauma can get passed down from generation to generation. In the reading, we read about Vietnamese refugees, and how their views of mental health don’t allow them to get the help, they need to move on from their trauma. Because they don’t deal with their trauma properly, when the next generation has mental health issues, they can be mistreated, worsening their condition. In the podcast with Ocean Vuong, we saw how a lack of verbal communication could also lead to intergenerational trauma. This lack of communication didn’t allow his friends and family to voice how they felt properly. They didn’t know how to do so, which led to many of them having a mental health crisis. When you see a loved one struggling with mental health, it also affects you as well. However, when you don’t know how to deal with mental health yourself, the cycle continues. In the ted talk, we listened to how the stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian community can also continue intergenerational trauma. Because of the stigma surrounding mental health in the Asian community, it doesn’t get talked about enough. This leads to people such as the speaker feeling as if they cannot seek help and improve their mental state, which continues the cycle of intergenerational trauma. Overall, it’s important to pay attention to intergenerational trauma because if we don’t, we cannot properly support each other in times of need. 

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