Psychological trauma in the context of familial relationships: A concept analysis

Sophie Isobel, Melinda Goodyear, Kim Foster

    Research output: Contribution to journalReview ArticleResearchpeer-review

    19 Citations (Scopus)


    Many forms of psychological trauma are known to develop interpersonally within important relationships, particularly familial. Within the varying theoretical constructs of psychological traumas, and distinct from the processes of diagnosis, there is a need to refine the scope and definitions of psychological traumas that occur within important familial relationships to ensure a cohesive evidence base and fidelity of the concept in application to practice. This review used a philosophical inquiry methodology of concept analysis to identify the definitions, antecedents, characteristics, and consequences of the varying conceptualizations of psychological trauma occurring within important relationships. Interactions between concepts of interpersonal trauma, relational trauma, betrayal trauma, attachment trauma, developmental trauma, complex trauma, cumulative trauma, and intergenerational trauma are presented. Understanding of the discrete forms and pathways of transmission of psychological trauma between individuals, including transgenerationally within families, creates opportunities for prevention and early intervention within trauma-focused practice. This review found that concepts of psychological trauma occurring within familial relationships are not exclusive of each other but overlap in their encompassment of events and circumstances as well as the effect on individuals of events in the short term and long term. These traumas develop and are transmitted in the space between people, both purposefully and incidentally, and have particularly profound effects when they involve a dependent infant or child. Linguistic and conceptual clarity is paramount for trauma research and practice.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)549-559
    Number of pages11
    JournalTrauma, Violence & Abuse
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2019


    • attachment
    • intergenerational transmission of trauma
    • memory and trauma
    • vicarious trauma

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