What is a genogram? A genogram is graphical representation of a person's family relationship and medical history. It is a unique type of family research diagram. It not only records family members and their relationships to each other, but also many of their physical and physiological attributes by utilizing an elaborate system of symbols.

Genogram example

Common Genogram Symbols

In a genogram, female family members are represented by circles and males by squares.

Genogram symbols for males and females

To represent someone who is deceased, you'd draw an x through their symbol.

Genogram symbol for those deceased

A pregnancy is usually represented with a triangle and an x through the triangle reflects a miscarriage or abortion.

The lines between people represent inherited traits related to disease or emotional relationships.

Genogram relationships

A genogram can be very helpful in determining an individual's probability of inheriting a certain characteristic or disease. For this reason, genograms have many unique symbols to denote often inherited medical conditions including Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and cancers.

Genogram inheritable conditions

Common Uses of a Genogram

Genograms are useful in almost any profession that deals with patterns of heredity and psychological issues. They are useful in the study of disease, behavior, and social interaction.

  • Medical genograms enable practitioners to evaluate an individual's health risks. Knowledge of pre-existing health conditions can help physicians accurately diagnosis and provide the appropriate treatment of health problems. For the individual, having knowledge of diseases or illnesses common to the family can give an individual a head start in taking preventive measures. Documenting four generations may prove to be sufficient detail.
  • Sociologists use genograms to gather objective information and track trends across generations. This allows them to view the client's issues as it relates to the client's marital and family relationships.
  • A genogram displays the emotional bonds among individuals composing a family or social unit. A genogram functions as an assessment tool to measure the cohesiveness of the group in order to determine the proper care that is needed. This type of information is invaluable for a social worker.
  • Genograms provide family counselors or therapists with a starting point to explain family dynamics to a client who is going through personal or family therapy.
  • Genealogists are able use genograms to document complex family trees that include information regarding marriages and divorces, adoption, strained relationships, etc. The genogram can be used to examine interesting family history such as naming patterns, rivalry, or significant events.