A new study reveals that the daughters of women exposed to childhood trauma are at increased risk for psychiatric disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.
However, the study also concluded that there was no effect among male children, and no effect among children of either sex born to fathers who participated in the analysis.
The New York Times reports that researchers studied 46,877 Finnish children who were evacuated to Sweden during World War II between 1940 and 1944. They then tracked the health of their 93,391 male and female children born from 1950 to 2010.
The JAMA Psychiatry study found that female children of mothers who had been evacuated to Sweden were twice as likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric illness as their female cousins who had not been evacuated, and more than four times as likely to have serious psychiatric disorders.
The lead author, Dr. Torsten Santavirta, said that it is possible that traumatic events cause changes in gene expression that can then be inherited, but the researchers did not have access to genetic information.
“The most important takeaway is that childhood trauma can be passed on to offspring,” Santavirta told the Times, “and the wrinkle here is that these associations are sex-specific.”
Read more at the New York Times.