Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma: Disruptions in Parent-child Attachment Patterns and the Rise of Pathological Accommodation

Date of Award


Document Type

Doctoral Research Paper

Degree Name


Organizational Unit

Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Peter Buirski

Second Advisor

Brian Gearity

Third Advisor

Will Menaker


Intergenerational transmission of trauma, Attachment theory, Intersubjective systems theory, Pathological accommodation, Parent-child attachment, Disorganized attachment


This paper examines how integrating attachment and intersubjective theories help explain the intergenerational transmission of trauma, as well as guide clinical interventions with traumatized clients. Specifically, this paper explores in greater depth the link between caregivers with disorganized attachment patterns and pathological accommodation in children. Further, this paper will discuss how to clinically conceptualize and intervene with such clients using intersubjective systems theory. To date, there is limited literature that explores the utility and effectiveness of intersubjective systems theory to mitigate the cycle of intergenerational trauma. What follows is a literature review of attachment theory, analysis of the link between caregiver trauma and child pathological accommodation, and an overview of intersubjective systems theory. I will then introduce a long-term psychotherapy case example in which the client’s complex trauma history led to disruptions in the attachment relationship with her children. Conceptualizations and treatment interventions are understood from an integration of intersubjective and attachment systems, with particular attention paid to the quality of the therapeutic attachment bond as a catalyst for intergenerational change.

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


48 pgs

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