Creating Genograms

The following are questions to consider in creating a genogram. Review your personal history and the people, existing support systems, or events that may have influenced you.

1. Who lives in the household? Where do other family members live?

2. How is each person related?

3. How do other family members view you?

4. What are changes that have occurred in the family?

5. Has anyone else lived with your family? When? Where are they now?

6. Are there any family members who have had a medical or mental illness of any kind? Who are they and how are they related to you? When did the problem(s) begin? What kind of treatment was helpful for them or available to them?

7. Are there any family members who are very close? Friends who are close? Who are they?

8. Which members help out when you need them?

9. How do you get along with each member in your home? In your family?

10. Whom do you see as the strong one? The weak one? The sick one? The bad one? The mad one? The one with all the problems? The dominant one? The submissive one? The successful one? The failure? The warm one, cold one, caring one, distant one, or the selfish one?

11. Has anyone in your family had serious medical problems? Who and what did they have?

12. What roles have you played in your family?

13. How did the family react when a particular family member was born? When a particular family member died?

14. Are there any family members who do not speak to each other or who have ever had a period of not speaking? Are there any who were/are in serious conflict?

15. Are there any family members who are extremely close? Who helps out when needed? In whom do family members confide?

16. What sort of issues occurred between the couples in your family?

17. How does each parent get along with each child? Have any family members had particular problems dealing with their children?

18. Any job changes? Unemployment? How do you like your job? What is the economic situation?

Interpreting Genograms

There are many ways to interpret a genogram. As a rule of thumb, the data must be analyzed for the following:

1. Multi-Generational Issues: Repetitive symptom, relationship, or functioning patterns can be seen across the family and over generations. Thus, you ought to examine the genogram for repeated triangles, coalitions, cut-offs, patterns of conflict, over-and under-functioning, etc.

2. Dates: Dates provide information that helps put events in perspective. For example, coincidence of dates (e.g., death of one family member or anniversary of death occurring at the same time as symptom onset in another, or the age at symptom onset coinciding with the age of problem development of another family member. Dates throw light on the impact of sequential or simultaneous happenings whose relatedness may be otherwise hard to ascertain. For example, if you find out that an individual or family was dealing with several mishaps within a given year, you can see the effect these stresses would have on family members, such as a young baby or an older child leaving home.

3. Change and Life Cycle Transitions: Changes in functioning and relationships that correspond with critical family life events. Of particular interest are untimely life cycle transitions (e.g., births, marriages, or deaths) that occur “off-schedule.”

4. Traumas: Traumas can have a dramatic impact on people. Experiencing such events as abuse; war; natural disasters; etc., their timing, and how people reacted are critical to examine.

5. Gender: Gender beliefs and values do have an influential role in families. They often create complications within the context of cross-cultural marriages, especially when involving members of different gender beliefs. A common example of such a case is if a family has sent clear messages that men are strong and do not show emotions (especially hurtful ones), you may come to understand why a given younger-generation married couple would be struggling to communicate.

6. Secrets: Secrets in a family not only take energy away from a family, but may reveal important information about boundaries and communication patterns in the family system.

7. Losses: The issue of losses is a fundamental factor in genograms. Some of the points to note under this category are: the event of sudden and critical illness, economic hardships, sudden death, disabilities, unanticipated loss or shortage of income, miscarriages, divorces, etc. Even though the impact of such losses varies from person to person, the question is: “To what extent was this event perceived as a loss?” Not all these events are perceived as losses, and the depth of loss also does vary greatly.

Much of the information and materials in this document were taken from the GenoPro website such as the rules, symbols, family relations, emotional relationship pages. Permission was given to do so by the developer of GenoPro to the developer of this document.

GenoPro Software. [permission to use symbols and other materials from

GenoPro has been granted to the creator of the document]

McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., & Petry, S. (2007). Genograms: Assessment and intervention

(3rd ed.). New York: W.W. Norton and Company

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