A new Dutch study contradicts the popular belief that the effect of war and related trauma can have a profound impact on the soldier's partner and children. It highlights that war trauma is not necessarily passed on in any significant way.
Psychiatrist Arend Veeninga, in the Dutch monthly 'Maandblad Geestelijke volksgezondheid', says there is no scientific basis to the theory that 'war trauma is infectious'.
Investigating trauma related to World War II and the Holocaust in particular, Veeninga acknowledges that many partners and children of war victims do have problems, but he suspects they originate from aggressive behaviour or repression on the part of the victim.
'Complaints from the next-of-kin of war victims look like the complaints from psychiatric patients - sleeplessness, anxiety, tension or reliving of experiences related by the relevant family member,' Veeninga writes.
'Some researches refer to 'secondary trauma', but there is no proof that this exists,' Veeninga, chairman of the Dutch association of psychotherapy, concludes.
'It is a kind of alibi. I am the victim, as a member of my family is suffering from war trauma, and there is little I can do about it,' Veeninga says.
He says that if people hang onto their role as victims, their personal development is stunted.
Veeninga looked at studies done into the children of victims of the Holocaust.
'In general, the second generation functions between moderate to well. Only in the case of illness or fundamental life-events does it appear that these children are more sensitive,' he writes.
'This is not the same as a post-traumatic stress disorder,' Veeninga concludes.