Transgenerational Practice: Delphine Duff, Butler Trust Commendation, 2011 and 2016

“It does not matter whatever your position in life… it is never too late to turn your life around.” [1]  ~ Alice Crowe

Transgenerational trauma is trauma that is passed down from generation to generation.  A classic example of transgenerational trauma would be child abuse that causes a cycle of abuse and anxiety in ongoing generations.[2]  After a first generation of survivors experiences trauma, they are able to transfer their trauma to their children and further generations of offspring.[3]

The concept of a “good family” will mean different things to different people.  No matter an individual’s experience, the family makes a fundamental contribution to the individual’s early conditioning (Wickliffe, J. 2015).[4]  The transition from childhood to adulthood presents many challenges, particularly that of conflict between individual identity and perceived acceptance during the period of adolescence.  Therefore, concern remains for some young people when their carers lack sufficient influence or set boundaries that would limit their engagement in negative behaviour.  Such behaviours can also be compounded by exposure to environments that lack positive examples of academic attainment and personal achievement through legitimate means.


Cassandra Centre is a registered charity with a strong emphasis on raising awareness and educating individuals – in particular the young – on how to identify and tackle domestic abuse, sexual abuse and other forms of hidden violence, including experiences through gang related exploitation.  During the course of all our work, and more so, within its therapeutic settings, Cassandra Centre has witnessed a growing number of individuals showing signs of epigenetically manifested, transgenerational trauma, e.g., feelings, behaviours and experiences that belong to a previous generation within their family.  These individuals speak about their struggles with emotional and psychological challenges, which, upon investigation, show evidence of harmful behaviours and experiences that have been learnt, remained unchallenged and were repeated from one generation to the next.


Sadly, transgenerational trauma is often not recognised, and the focus is on behaviours that incorporate “dysfunctional ways of coping or ill thought through parenting”[5] (Duff, D. 2010).  The lack of knowledge and empathy around the effects of transgenerational trauma does not allow individuals to learn the interventions they need to better self-regulate their behaviour and manage their emotions without harming themselves or others.

Cassandra Centre recognises that transgenerational practice can inspire skills-based learning and supports opportunities that can increase social capital. As such, the Centre has started to provide multi-faceted resources in the community which span across generations.  This encourages opportunities for all age groups in the community to break the cycle of harm and focus instead on building a cohesive social infrastructure.  Equally as important, is the development of healthy relationships between community and statutory partners.  This should enhance the dialogue to challenge stereotypes, eliminate barriers, increase knowledge, and the ability to address transgenerational bias.



[1] Crowe, A. (1996). How to Get Black on Track: A Self-Empowerment Guide for people who are ready to make a change “Within” Self. Eye of Atum Pr

[2] Jacobson, S. (July 17, 2017) What is Transgenerational Trauma?  Available from

[3]  Transgenerational Trauma (September 19, 2020).  Available from, Wikipedia,

[4] Wickliffe, J. (2015). Complete reference to be added at a later date.

[5] Duff, D. (2010). STARR International Conference on Interventions for Young People