Psychiatry Investig.  2019 Mar;16(3):249-253. 10.30773/pi.2019.01.21.

Transgenerational Transmission of Trauma: Psychiatric Evaluation of Offspring of Former “Comfort Women,” Survivors of the Japanese Military Sexual Slavery during World War II

  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Soonchunhyang University Bucheon Hospital, Bucheon, Republic of Korea.
  • 2Department of Psychiatry, Jeju National University College of Medicine, Jeju, Republic of Korea.
  • 3Mentor Clinic, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • 4Maumtodac Clinic, Ansan, Republic of Korea.
  • 5Department of Psychiatry, Incheon St. Mary’s Hospital, Incheon, Republic of Korea.
  • 6Department of Psychiatry, Ajou University School of Medicine, Suwon, Republic of Korea.
  • 7Maum & Maum Clinic, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • 8Department of Psychiatry, National Medical Center, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • 9Department of Psychiatry, SMG-SNU Boramae Medical Center, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, Republic of Korea.
  • 10Korean Women’s Development Institute, Seoul, Republic of Korea.


"Comfort women" are survivors of sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II, who endured extensive trauma including massive rape and physical torture. While previous studies have been focused on the trauma of the survivors themselves, the effects of the trauma on the offspring has never been evaluated before. In this article, we reviewed the first study on the offspring of former "comfort women" and aimed to detect the evidence of transgenerational transmission of trauma. In-depth psychiatric interviews and the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-5 Axis I Disorders were conducted with six offspring of former "comfort women." Among the six participants, five suffered from at least one psychiatric disorder including major depressive disorder, panic disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, insomnia disorder, somatic symptom disorder, and alcohol use disorder. Participants showed similar shame and hyperarousal symptoms as their mothers regarding stimuli related to the "comfort woman" issue. Increased irritability, problems with aggression control, negative worldview, and low self-esteem were evident in the children of mothers with posttraumatic stress disorder. Finding evidence of transgenerational transmission of trauma in offspring of "comfort women" is important. Future studies should include more samples and adopt a more objective method.


Comfort women; Second generation; Transgenerational transmission of trauma

MeSH Terms

Adjustment Disorders
Asian Continental Ancestry Group*
Depressive Disorder, Major
Military Personnel*
Panic Disorder
Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders
Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic
World War II*
Full Text Links
  • PI
export Copy
  • Twitter
  • Facebook
Similar articles
    DB Error: unknown error