Date of Award

January 2021

Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Sarah Lowe


For centuries Native American communities have been subjected to persistent oppression. The effects of the historical events of colonization have transcended generations and continue to affect the lives of the current generation, removed from direct exposure to the traumatic events. The intergenerational transmission of trauma has widely been studied in Holocaust survivors, with only recent explorations in other marginalized populations incurring similar forms of trauma. Additionally, explorations in intergenerational trauma transmission have largely focused on biological mechanisms rather than the psychosocial mechanisms. The purpose of this study is to examine existing evidence regarding psychosocial mechanisms of intergenerational transmission of historical trauma specifically in Native American communities. A systematic search was conducted in Ovid Medline, CINAHL, and Native Health Database to identify studies pertaining to Native American historical trauma and its intergenerational transmission. Themes exemplifying mechanisms of transmission were extracted from studies that met eligibility criteria. Nine studies were included in the final sample. All studies were qualitative in nature and took place in the United States. Potential mechanisms identified across literature in this review include both strength and deficit-based mechanisms. The strength-based mechanism identified in this review is of survivance, defined as survivor identity that has transcended generations and is often associated with historical events of oppression. The deficit-based mechanisms identified in this review include impaired child rearing practices, with sub themes of impaired bonding and impaired cultural identity, child maltreatment, and maladaptive coping strategies. Despite a few key limitations, this review adds to current understandings about the negative impacts of historical trauma as well as the strengths and resilience developed by Native American communities as a result of the trauma.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access