There is an ongoing debate as to whether traumatization also affects the close relatives of trauma survivors who have symptoms of PTSD. Although many studies provide evidence favoring a transgenerational transmission, other studies have not found evidence to support this idea. The present study examined whether adult offspring of individuals exposed to trauma during forced displacement with (n = 22) and without PTSD (n = 24) exhibit an implicit avoidance of stimuli related to the parental trauma compared to children of non-trauma exposed control participants (n = 23) using an Approach-Avoidance task (AAT). Offspring participants were requested to push (i.e., avoidance) or pull (i.e., approach) displacement-related and neutral pictures, whereby response direction depended on a non-affective dimension (color of the pictures). Results suggest that the offspring of non-PTSD participants exhibit implicit avoidance of displacement-related stimuli. This rather unexpected finding might either indicate resilience amongst offspring of PTSD participants or that offspring of non-PTSD participants are particularly affected. If these results were to replicate, they suggest that implicit avoidance tendencies amongst the offspring of trauma exposed participants might partially contribute to their heightened PTSD vulnerability. Longitudinal studies are needed to elucidate whether implicit avoidance tendencies are associated with increased stress vulnerability.
- Approach-Avoidance Task