Crucial Conversations: Exploring Intergenerational Trauma in Post-Conflict Guatemala



Guatemala is a country fractured by years of sociopolitical conflict and instability. In the summer of 2011, I secured grant funding to implement supportive counseling and educational services, in conjunction with a local nonprofit organization, to help local children better understand and process the profound effects of the country’’s civil war, which ended in 1996. Upon beginning this project, however, it became apparent that many of the children with whom I interacted had limited or no knowledge of the conflict. This article explores the pervasive and systematic avoidance of discussing widespread psychosocial trauma and the potential effects of this avoidance on parents, children, and the greater community. I compare these observations with existing social work and psychology research literature, drawing from the concept of intergenerational trauma, or the transference of trauma symptoms from parent to child. I then discuss whether the avoidance of trauma discussion with children can protect their psychological well-being and prevent the trans- ference of trauma, or if such avoidance leads to increased risk of individual psychological impairment and cyclical community problems. Based upon this analysis, the article finally discusses implications for social workers confronting psychosocial trauma in post-conflict settings.

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