Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Sally Grapin

Committee Member

Sarah Lowe

Committee Member

Samantha Coyle

Committee Member

Monica Uddin


Twenty-eight years after the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, children of survivors are being increasingly documented to show increased risk for adverse mental health outcomes. However, no studies in Rwanda have empirically explored psychosocial factors underlying this intergenerational transmission of trauma. We investigated family factors that could underlie this transmission in 285 adult Rwandan children of survivors (mean age = 23.31; 50.2% female) who completed an online survey. We found that 42.2% of participants had clinically significant secondary PTSD symptoms and 37.8% had clinically significant symptoms of depression or anxiety. For participants with survivor mothers (n = 187), we found that maternal trauma communication (specifically, nonverbal and guilt-inducing communication) mediated the effect of maternal trauma exposure and maternal PTSD on children’s PTSD and that family communication styles mediated the effect of maternal PTSD on all child mental health outcomes. For participants with survivor fathers (n = 170), we found that paternal parenting styles (specifically, abusive and indifferent parenting) mediated the effect of paternal PTSD symptoms on children’s anxiety and depression symptoms. These results reaffirm the importance of looking at mass trauma in a family context and suggest that intergenerational trauma interventions should focus on addressing these mediators.

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