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A genogram also known as a family diagram,[1][2] is a pictorial display of a person's position in their family's hereditary and ongoing relationships. It goes beyond a traditional family tree by allowing the user to visualize social patterns and psychological factors that punctuate relationships especially patterns that repeat over the generations.[3]



Murray Bowen[4] of the Georgetown Family Center developed the concept of the genogram, which he preferred to call a "family diagram" as part of his family systems model in the 1970s. He claimed not to know where the concept of a genogram came from, but avowed that he did not invent it. In their 1980 book, The Family Life Cycle[5] Carter & McGoldrick included a genogram on the cover and a page on the genogram format, copyrighted to Dr. Murray Bowen, who had been promoting the value of genograms family systems work. The same year Jack Bradt, who had been a student of Bowen published a Pamphlet through the Groome Center where he worked, which displayed the basic symbols used for family diagrams or genograms.[6]

Genograms were later developed and popularized by Monica McGoldrick and Randy Gerson through their book Genograms in Family Assessment (first published in 1985),[7] 4th edition, Genograms: Assessment and Treatment, 2020,[8] with McGoldrick, Petry & Gerson as authors). Genograms are now used by various groups of people in a variety of fields. Many practitioners in health care and mental health have over the past 50 years come to use genograms especially in services that are interested in understanding human behavior patterns in a contextual manner.[9]


Basic genogram symbols

A genogram is created with simple symbols representing the gender, with various lines to illustrate family relationships.

Genogram symbols typically include date of birth and date of death over three or more generations and the name of the individual underneath. People's current age or age at death is indicated within the symbol for each person, and computer programs have the advantage of being able to update age as time goes along.

Various individuals and groups have worked together to develop a standardized genogram, including from psychiatry, Murray Bowen,[4] Philip Guerin, Jack Bradt,[10] Brian Stagoll,[11] and Karl Tomm, from psychology Randy Gerson, Michael Rohrbaugh,[3] Sueli Petry,[12] Eliana Gil,[13] from social work, Betty Carter,[5] Ann Hartman,[14] Elaine Pinderhughes,[15] and Monica McGoldrick,[16] from family medicine Drs. Jack Medalie,[17] Jack Froom, John Rodgers,[18][19][20] Michael Crouch[21][22]

Patterns tracked


A genogram can contain a wealth of information on the families represented. It will not only show the names of people who belong to a family lineage, but how these relatives relate to each other. For example, a genogram will not only show that a person called Paul and his wife Lily have three children, but that their eldest child was sent to boarding school; that their middle child is always in conflict with her mother; that their youngest has juvenile diabetes; that Paul suffered from depression, was an alcoholic, and a philosopher; and that Lily has not spoken to her brother for years, has breast cancer, and has a history of quitting her jobs.

See also



  1. ^ Jolly, W.; Froom, J.; Rosen, M. G. (1980). "The genogram". The Journal of Family Practice. 10 (2): 251–255. PMID 7354276.
  2. ^ Butler, J.F. (2008). "The Family Diagram and Genogram: Comparisons and Contrasts". American Journal of Family Therapy. 36 (3): 169–180. doi:10.1080/01926180701291055.
  3. ^ a b Friedman, H.; Rohrbaugh, M.; Krakauer, S. (1988), "The time-line genogram: Highlighting temporal aspects of family relationships", Family Process, 27, 27 (3): 293–303, doi:10.1111/j.1545-5300.1988.00293.x, PMID 3224700
  4. ^ a b Bowen, Murray (1978). Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. New York: Jason Aronson.
  5. ^ a b Carter, B.; McGoldrick, M. (1980). The Family Life Cycle. Gardner Press, NY.
  6. ^ Bradt, Jack O. (1980). The family diagram: Method, technique and use in family therapy. Groome Center, Washington, D.C.
  7. ^ McGoldrick, M.; Gerson, R (1985). Genograms in family assessment. New York: W.W. Norton.
  8. ^ McGoldrick, M.; Gerson, R; Petry, S. Genograms: Assessment and treatment (4th ed.). New York: W.W. Norton & Company.
  9. ^ Beck, R. L. (1987). "The genogram as process". American Journal of Family Therapy. 15 (4): 343–351. doi:10.1080/01926188708250694.
  10. ^ Bradt, Jack (1980). The Family Diagram: Method, Technique and Uses in Family Therapy. Washington, D.C.: Groome Center.
  11. ^ Stagoll, Brian; Lang, Moshe (1 July 1980). "Climbing the Family Tree: Working with Genograms". Australian Journal of Family Therapy. 1 (4): 161–170. doi:10.1002/j.1467-8438.1980.tb00022.x. ISSN 1467-8438.
  12. ^ Petry, S.S. & McGoldrick, M. (2005). Genograms in Assessment and Therapy. In G.P.Koocher, J.C.Norcross & S.S. Hill (Eds). The Psychologist's Desk Reference, 2nd Edition, New York: Oxford University Press.
  13. ^ E. Gil, M. McGoldrick, & S. Petry (2020). Family Play Genograms. In McGoldrick, Gerson & Petry, Genograms: Assessment and Treatment, 4th Ed. W. W. Norton, New York.
  14. ^ Hartman, Ann (1995). "Diagrammatic assessment of family relationships". Families in Society. 76 (2): 111–122. doi:10.1177/104438949507600207.
  15. ^ Pinderhughes, E. (2019). Black genealogy revisited: Restorying an African American family. In M. McGoldrick (Ed.), Re-visioning family therapy: Race, culture, and gender in clinical practice. New York: Guilford.
  16. ^ McGoldrick, Monica (2016). The Genogram Casebook: A Clinical Companion to Genograms: Assessment and Intervention. New York: W. W. Norton.
  17. ^ Medalie, J.H. (1978). Family History, Database, Family Tree, and Family Diagnosis, in J. H. Medalie (ed). Family Medicine: Principles and Applications (pp 329-336), Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins.
  18. ^ Rogers, J.C., Rohrbaugh, M., & McGoldrick, M. (1992). Can experts predict health risk from family genograms? Family Medicine, 24(3), 209-215.
  19. ^ Rogers, J., C., & Rohrbaugh, M. (1991). The SAGE-PAGE trial: Do family genograms make a difference? Journal of the American Board of Family Practice, 4(5), 319-326.
  20. ^ Rohrbaugh, M., Rogers, J.C., & McGoldrick, M. (1992). How do experts read family genograms? Family Systems Medicine, 10(1), 79-89.
  21. ^ Crouch, M. & Davis, T. (1987). Using the genogram (family tree) clinically. In M. Crouch & L. Roberts (Eds.), The family in medical practice: A family systems primer. New York: Springer-Verlag.
  22. ^ Crouch, M (2020). Genograms in Medical or Psychiatric Practice. in M McGoldrick, R. Gerson & S. Petry: Genograms Assessment and Treatment, 4th Ed. W. W. Norton: New York.