A new study reveals that the daughters of women exposed to childhood trauma are at increased risk for psychiatric disorders, as compared to their sons who experience no effect.
The study also found that there was no effect on children born to men exposed to childhood trauma, The New York Times reports.
“The most important takeaway is that childhood trauma can be passed on to offspring,” The lead author, Torsten Santavirta, an associate professor of economics at Uppsala University told The New York Times, “and the wrinkle here is that these associations are sex-specific.”
The JAMA Psychiatry study looked at 46,877 Finnish children who were evacuated to Sweden during World War II, between 1940 and 1944. They then tracked the health of their 93,391 male and female children born from 1950 to 2010.
The study found that female children of mothers who had been evacuated to Sweden were twice as likely to be hospitalized for a psychiatric illness as their female cousins who had not been evacuated, and more than four times as likely to have serious psychiatric disorders. The results were the same even when researchers controlled for parental psychiatric disorder incase it was inherited.
Though Santavirta hypothesizes that the trauma may have caused a change in the affected women’s gene expression, her team of researchers does not have the genetic information to test that theory.