Inter-generational Trauma History of a City Like Bristol

Inter-generational Trauma History of a City Like Bristol 150 150 Jane Evans


healing_heart_400_clr_5601 (1)


I LOVE Bristol!

“Bristol is the 8th largest city in England and the 10th largest local authority in England.”

The Population of Bristol, 2015, Bristol City Council



I am lucky to live near Bristol and have worked in it regularly for the past 5 years. I also went to the University of Bristol from 1996-1999 to do my Social Policy Degree. I can confirm that its a stunning, vibrant city full of fascinating and welcoming, real-people. It’s fair to say ‘I love Bristol!’

Mainly I worked in the Hartcliffe and Knowle West areas whilst at Wish for a Brighter Future. At SurviveDV I was all over the city and in South Gloucestershire and I encountered a great deal of trauma in the families I was privileged to work with. Now I work for TACT with foster carers throughout the city.

What do we know about Bristol and it’s association with inter-generational trauma?
Bristol was a maritime city with ships docking from around the World on a regular basis bringing people with complex histories who may have seen a life at sea as an escape from grinding deprivation and their own dark pasts as children. Others will have been ‘press-ganged’ in to a life at sea.

Then there is an extensive period of trading in those taken in to slavery. History of Bristol tells us:
Bristol has a brutal and shameful past in the slavery of people from Africa. Because of Bristol’s position on the River Avon, it has been an important location for marine trade for centuries. The city’s involvement with the slave trade peaked between 1730 and 1745, when it became the leading slaving port.

Passing trauma on and on and on

What is currently known about the inter-generational transmission of complex trauma? What makes it so relevant in 2016?

In some respects, a great deal. In other respects, we are still learning all the time. That said, go to certain areas of any major city and you will see it in action in areas of deprivation and need, you won’t ‘see it’ in the leafier suburbs, but it will be there too.

Walk the streets of areas of need you will see:

  • Higher numbers of people with mobility needs
  • More young parents
  • Higher levels of disaffection from ‘main stream’ society
  • Clear evidence of smoking, obesity, alcohol and drug dependency
  • Higher levels of mental and physical illness
  • More children on Child Protection Plans
  • Higher levels of children with diagnoses of ADHD, ODD, ASD

Essentially, more overt inter-generational trauma. Poverty makes all of this much, much more challenging to live with, and beyond, which doesn’t stop people trying to, especially the children.

Research headed up by Rachel Yehuda, ‘Holocaust Exposure Induced Intergenerational Effects on FKBP5 Methylation’, concluded that:

This is the first demonstration of an association of pre-conception parental trauma with epigenetic alterations that is evident in both exposed parent and offspring, providing potential insight into how severe psychophysiological trauma can have intergenerational effects.

Numerous research studies on animals show the same things. This is explored in a great article in the Huffington Post looking at whether ‘genetic tags’ can be passed on:

It has already been shown in animal studies that fears may be inherited by future generations. At Emory University in Atlanta, mice were trained to be scared of the smell of cherry blossom by being given an electric shock at the same time they exposed to the scent.

The offspring of these mice were also scared of the smell, despite never having encountered it before, and so were their offspring. However the offspring of mice that had been trained to be fearful of a different smell, or that had not been trained at all, showed no fear of the cherry blossom smell


Do changing demographics mean more trauma?

Potentially, yes. Children who have had to leave their birth families and homes, whether through being removed in to care, or via migration, or both, come with a level of loss and trauma. This is NOT going to go away, we must take it very seriously and act.

Children 3.5 Between 2004 and 2014 the number of children (aged 0-15) living in Bristol is estimated to have increased by 11,500 (16%). This increase has been amongst the 0-10 year olds only (an increase of 25%), and in particular among the 0-4 year olds (an increase of 35%).

We address trauma by learning about how a developing body and brain are shaped by early childhood trauma and by being more willing to recognise certain key experiences:

  • being a child-in-care or child-in-need
  • domestic abuse
  • parental mental illness and/or substance dependency
  • any kind of abuse, especially EMOTIONAL
  • living in a household of ’emotionally unavailable’ adults = screens as being signs of repetitive trauma.

We must respond from a more ‘informed’ stand-point

Lets get busy using the extensive research which shows what children as a minimum need, compassionate, emotionally-regulated adults to support their recurring trauma and sensory over-load. Whilst they don’t need, consequences, shaming and exclusion, or ‘incentive systems’ they are unable engage with and sustain so experience additional failure.

Trauma is hard to understand and spot, some say, I don’t agree. When we see children repeatedly showing behaviours which don’t serve them well:

  • withdrawing and not accessing relationships or learning
  • lashing out
  • defiance and refusal to co-operate
  • doing the VERY thing that will get them ‘in to trouble’
  • getting in to confrontational spats

We need to be more ‘trauma-curious.’

Mike Armiger and I are bringing our Masterclass in working with children impacted by trauma to a city I love.

The effects of inter-generational trauma is NOT, as has been said to me, ‘a thing/fad’. Sadly, it is NOT going away unless we act.

Join us, get educated, and see children and their needs through a lens of even a low level of early, repetitive trauma. Use the understanding and strategies to act accordingly then there’s a chance of reducing, and one day stemming, the inter-generational transmission of complex trauma for them, and the next generation of the great city of Bristol.

 Book your place: 

Act Now!



Jane Evans

Jane is a ‘learn the hard way’ person. She has learnt from her personal experiences and her direct work with people who have often been in really bad places emotionally, relationally, practically and sometimes professionally.

All stories by: Jane Evans

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.