By Kayla Woody
CPN House of Hope Prevention Specialist

As children, we learn many things from our families like values, habits and character. Whether we are taught directly by caregivers or we pick these traits up by observation, this knowledge has a deep impact on our lives. Our relationships and the way we handle situations all stem from the interactions we experience with our families.

When there is violence in a home, abusive behavior becomes the standard for relationships. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that over their lifetimes, approximately 1 in 4 women and 1 in 10 men experience physical violence, sexual violence or stalking, and more than 43 million women and 38 million men experience psychological aggression (

The Office on Women’s Health (OASH) states that more than 15 million children in the U.S. live in homes in which domestic violence has happened at least once, and these children are at greater risk for repeating the cycle by entering into abusive relationships or becoming abusers themselves (

Intergenerational violence happens when the abuse affects several generations within a family. This term has been associated with societal trauma like the abuse that has been inflicted on racial and ethnic groups. The abuse directed at Native Americans through colonization and boarding schools is an example of historical trauma that continues to impact Native communities today. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) states that more than 4 in 5 (84.3%) American Indian and Alaskan Native adults have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime (

However, this cycle can be caused by family violence as well. Abuse tends to be a learned behavior, and when the abuse is normalized by frequent acts of violence in the home, whether physical, emotional or by coercive control, the cycle continues. It is difficult to break this cycle of abuse when an individual views the abuse as a normal way of interacting in a relationship.

In order to prevent this cycle of abuse from continuing generationally there must be more awareness around the issue. For individuals to make changes they must first see what the problem is. These individuals need to be provided with quality interventions and social support systems.

In a report, Breaking the Cycle of Intergenerational Violence: The Promise of Psychosocial Interventions to Address Children’s Exposure to Violence, there are some approaches that can be taken to decrease the likelihood of abuse continuing generationally (

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy with trauma focus (CBT) — this type of therapy can include cognitive coping skills, conjoint child-parent sessions to enhance communication, safety planning for future development and increasing emotional expression.
  • Interpersonal Therapy (IPT) — this type of therapy can include coping with grief after the loss of a loved one, overcoming difficulties in adapting to changes in relationships, gaining an ability to handle difficult social situations and resolving conflict.
  • Mindfulness and Yoga — these types of interventions are normally group-based and include meditation. Growing evidence supports the use of yoga as a treatment for depression and PTSD among child or adolescent survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
  • Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention — this intervention is for a child and their caregiver to be implemented within 30 to 45 days of a traumatic event or disclosure of abuse. It is used to improve communication between the child and the non-abusive caregiver and to increase the support of the caregiver to the child.

Even though the history of abuse and trauma might have started with your parents or your other relatives, you have the power to break free from this curse.

If you or someone you know is experiencing stalking, intimate partner violence and/or sexual assault and would like more information, please contact the House of Hope at 405-275-3176 or visit us online at