Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy in Psychology
Studies of the Holocaust have shown that the Concentration Camp victims were traumatized in so massive a fashion as to make a permanent and irreversible change in their character.
The purpose of the present research was to make a direct inquiry into whether the character traits and symptoms of the survivors had an effect on character structure and personality of their children. Further, it was an attempt to distinguish two groups of survivors' children: children of survivors who were adolescents in the Concentration Camps and children of survivors who were adults in the Concentration Camps.
The subjects in this study comprised a total sample of 64 Jewish individuals. The sample was apportioned into four groups of subjects: two experimental and two control groups. There were 16 individuals in each group, an equal number of males and females. The two experimental groups consisted of children of survivors who were either adolescents or adults in the Concentration Camps. The two control groups consisted of children of Jews who escaped from Europe just prior to the Holocaust, and who were either adolescents or adults during the Second World War. All the subjects were provided with a brief description of the study, and their consent was obtained.
There were three sources of data in this investigation: the Life History Questionnaire (Appendix I ), the Personal Attributes Inventory (PAI )-- a composite of scales and subscales in booklet form that assess eleven personality variables, (Appendix VI) and the Structured Interview (Appendix IV.)
Each of the dependent variables evaluated in the PAI and examined in the Structured Interview was analyzed using a 2x2x2 analysis of variance. The three-way ANOVA assessed the effects of Camp Experience (children of survivors and controls), Sex (male and female), and Developmental Level (children of parents who were adolescents during WWI and children of parents who were adults during WWII). The responses to the Life History Questionnaire furnished demographic data and other descriptive information pertaining to the backgrounds of the subjects and their parents, and added a qualitative dimension to the study.
The analysis of variance yielded a main effect for Camp Experience (children of survivors differed from controls) on eleven of the twenty personality attributes assessed.
The analysis of variance also revealed that children of survivors, those parents were adolescents in the Concentration Camps were no different from children of survivors whose parents were adults in the Concentration Camps on the majority of dependent variables assessed. Only three interaction effects (Camp Experience x Developmental Level) were obtained that could shed light on the differences between the two groups. Other main effects and interactions were obtained that are of heuristic value only, but have no direct relation to the Concentration Camp experience.
The results from this study demonstrated that despite measurable differences between children of survivors and controls, the mean scores obtained by both groups on all dependent variables were within the normal range. The fact that children of survivors obtained normal mean scores is strong evidence for their normality. The findings encouraged the concept of a "survivor child's complex," which acknowledges the impact of the survivor parent on his/her child, but visualizes this impact as producing a constellation of outstanding personality attributes, within the normal range that is unique to children of survivors.
The findings also showed that if there was any indication of a difference between children of survivors who were adults in the Concentration Camps and children of survivors who were adolescents in the Concentration Camps, the children of survivors who were adults were more affected by their parents' trauma.
A qualitative examination of the Structured Interview and the Life History Questionnaire data indicates that on most of the informal measures of Jewish identification, there is little or no difference between the experimental and control subjects. However, additional findings also revealed that children of survivors express themselves more intensely about their Jewishness than controls, view themselves as Jewish in a religious sense more than controls, and are more active in Jewish causes and issues than are controls.
Budwick, Cynthia, "An Investigation of the Effect of Holocaust Survivor Parents on Their Children" (1985). Open Access Dissertations. Paper 1134.