A genogram is a well-mapped family history to identify hereditary, health, and psychiatric patterns. It serves the purpose of maintaining a record of all important occurrences and works as a guideline for life.
Did You Know?
Dr. Murray Bowen first coined the word ‘genogram’ in the year 1978. He replaced it for the original longer term ‘family diagram’
A genogram will allow you to render significant people and events that occurred or occur in your family. It will help you uncover integral patterns, viz. substance abuse, divorces, live-ins, separations, estrangements, births, deaths, miscarriages, stillbirths, adoptions, abortions, foster children, siblings, medical or psychological problems that run in the family, etc. The list does not end there; you can also show family dynamics, such as godparents, relatives, etc.
This generally helps in family therapy and to know the hereditary medical history, to help identify patterns that may skip a generation or two. The National Society of Genetic Counselors created standardized symbols for genograms in the 1980s.
How to Begin
✎ You will need an notebook, A3 size paper, pencil, and markers.
✎ You will then need to decide the purpose of your genogram. Also determine how many generations you wish to add; 3 generations is ideal.
✎ Perform a thorough research about your family. For example, if you wish to make a genogram as a family health record, you would need to gather information accordingly.
✎ Birth dates, dates of deaths, dates of marriages, separations and divorces, etc., need to be mentioned.
✎ Place them systematically; date and generation wise.
✎ Begin with yourself and your immediate family, viz. spouse, parents, children, siblings and their spouses and their children. Proceed to your aunts and uncles, their spouses and children. Further, move on to your grandparents.
▶ Men are denoted on the left and women on the right.
▶ Use symbols such as a circle for women and a square for men, to denote the gender.
▶ A cross on these symbols indicates death. A triangle indicates pregnancy, with an unknown gender of the fetus.
▶ Write the name below the symbol.
▶ Date of birth should be written above the symbol, and date of death below the name.
▶ You can choose a color or pattern to show certain relationships. For example, use a jagged line to indicate abuse or hostility between two people. Use a close, straight line to indicate a close link between two or more relationships.
▶ Write their ages within the symbol and above the name.
▶ Solid lines denote married. Dotted lines indicate unmarried live-ins.
▶ A single slash on the straight line represents separation, while two slash lines means divorce.
▶ List the children from the youngest to the oldest, from left to right.
▶ Use a drop-down symbol to indicate children. Solid lines mean biological children. A dotted line indicates foster, while a dashed lined indicates adopted child.
Points to Remember
▶ There are a different symbols that need to be remembered as the complexities of family relations increase. This may get difficult to remember. Keep it simple, and maintain an index at the bottom.
▶ Choose distinct colors that are easily differentiated, even at a glance. Colors such as red, green, blue, and pink are easily spotted.
Example of a Family Genogram
A genogram is made to have a visual history of health, relationships, lineage, etc., and works as a record of events that occur in life, like marriages, divorces, births, and deaths. It also serves the purpose of being a guideline for life. For example, if you see a pattern of divorces, substance abuse, emotional or sexual abuse in your family, you can take precautionary measures to avoid history repeating itself.