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Parental stress-mediated effects in offspring could be explained by genetics or social learning theory.Alternatively, biological variations stemming from stress exposure in parents could more directly have an impact on offspring, a concept we refer to here as ‘intergenerational transmission’, via changes to gametes and the gestational uterine environment.We begin this review by discussing the field’s progression in understanding regarding stress and its long-lasting marks, ie, via PTSD and intergenerational effects.We note affected offspring clinical features, from physical, behavioral, cognitive, and psychological, as well as biological correlates, including neuroendocrine, epigenetic, and neuroanatomical changes.Note, however, that numerous reports refer to parental stress, anxiety, and depression as if these were interchangeable constructs.Furthermore, we attempt to distinguish between stress exposures that occurred before conception, at the time of conception, at the time of pregnancy, or in the early postnatal period, where possible.

Moreover, the concept of intergenerational transmission of stress effects relies on the observation, based on animal and human studies, that stress may induce long-lived and widespread effects in the parent.

For instance, stress-exposed parents may confer vulnerability via genetic risk factors (ie, their offspring may inherit the same or similar genetic risks that have an impact on their own stress vulnerability), or through behavioral alterations stemming from the development of stress-related psychopathology (ie, affecting their ability to parent or the childhood environment of the offspring).

In recent years, as a result of advances in the understanding of epigenetic mechanisms, an additional hypothesis has been promulgated—that offspring of severely stress-exposed parents are at risk for adverse outcomes because of enduring epigenetic changes in parental biological systems that have arisen in response to stress exposure and are transmitted (Yehuda and Bierer, 2009).

This process has been referred to as ‘intergenerational transmission’.

Here, we present evidence for the phenomenon of intergenerational transmission, particularly focusing on biological correlates in the second generation, to better understand the mechanism(s) of transmission from parent to offspring.

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