Methods: Collective trauma is utilized as an umbrella term that integrates key definitions, concepts, and processes (ie. exposure, transmission, and response) from trauma frameworks, as it has been theorized across disciplinary literatures (ie. psychology, sociology, biology). Illuminating key aspects of these frameworks, that are either concretely elaborated upon or eluded to, this model seeks to highlight distinctions between these concepts and processes, while also demonstrating their significance and differential impact when studied in relation to one another. This analysis explicitly examines collective trauma in relation to historical and contemporary sociopolitical contexts to elaborate upon the impacts of systemic oppression.
Results: Collective trauma is a chronic, complex (multidimensional and intersectional), and temporal (intergenerational and cumulative) form of trauma that originates from a mass trauma experience that directly targets groups of people who share a common identity, affiliation, experience, and/or circumstance. This framework is undergirded by three main constructs: 1) collective trauma exposure, 2) collective trauma transmission and accumulation, and 3) collective trauma response. Each of these distinct processes espouses key assumptions and displays important characteristics that allow researchers to appropriately elaborate on the experience of systemic oppression and its relationship to health and wellbeing.
Conclusions and Implications: Framing collective trauma in this manner has the potential to directly inform future measurement and empirical approaches regarding the study of systemic oppression. Not only does this model allow researchers to examine collective trauma’s holistic impact on health and well-being, but illuminates the lived experiences of those who suffer the brunt of social oppression. This analysis suggests several potential directions for future research. Further extensions of this model should seek to differentiate its applicability depending on the source of trauma and population of interest. For example, future iterations might seek to describe its application in examining the experiences of African American communities in relation to the legacy of slavery and anti-black racism.