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A genogram is a way of representing a family tree and relationships within the family.


The following symbols are used to represent the gender of family members



Gender unknown

If a family member is deceased, this is indicated by placing a cross inside their symbol:

Enduring relationships, such as marriage and cohabitation, are illustrated by a single unbroken line:

Transitory relationships are illustrated by a single broken:

Separation is shown by a single short diagonal line across the relationship line:

Divorce is shown by two short diagonal lines across the relationship line:

When there are a number of children from a relationship the eldest child is placed on the furthest left, followed by the second eldest and so on, with the youngest child appearing on the right.

Twins are indicated by two symbols coming from a single 'stalk'

A miscarriage or abortion is indicated by a diagonal cross. In the genogram the miscarriage or abortions should be placed in the diagram in the same order as other children. So for example if a couple had a daughter, Mary, followed by a miscarriage, followed by a son David, their genogram would look like this:

The family members who are part of the same household are indicated by dotted line which is placed around the household members.

Using a Genogram

Completing a genogram can fulfil a number of functions:

  • identifying intergenerational patterns within families;
  • finding out about the family's history and how much of the history individual family members know.

Further information on genograms can be found on page 29 of Assessing Children in Need and their Families: Practice Guidance (Department of Health, 2000).

Using the genogram as a tool to assess family relationships is detailed in the Family Assessment: Family Competence, Strengths and Difficulties (Bentovim and Bingley Miller, 2001).

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By Steve Walker, David Shemmings and Hedy Cleaver
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