The family genogram is a graphic depiction of a client’s family tree. The first of three steps is the
structure of the genogram. When constructing a genogram, use the following symbols:
Male = Fraternal Twins =
Marriage = Identical Twins =
Death = Adopted Child =
Males are depicted using squares, females are depicted using circles, and unknown gender is
depicted using triangles. Marriages are shown with a horizontal line connecting the two
symbols. A divorce adds a slash through the marriage line. Year of marriage and, if applicable,
divorce can be written on the line. Deceased family members have an X marked through their
Each generation is on its own distinct horizontal plane, so children are denoted using solid
vertical lines coming off a horizontal children line that is below the marriage line of the parents.
The length of the line is whatever is necessary to include all children, arranged in birth order.
Spouses of the children can have symbols next to them with their own marriage line between
them. The marriage line and children line are connected with a vertical line. That line can be as
long as is needed to maintain generational planes. Adopted children have an added dashed
vertical line next to the solid line. Twins have diagonal lines, coming from one point of
connection on the children line, with identical twins having an additional horizontal line
connecting their symbols.
Feel free to create new symbols to represent other aspects of your family that are not included
here (e.g. living together, affair). The client is the focus of the genogram, so their parents are
arranged with the father and his family on the left-side of the genogram and the mother and her
family on the right-side of the genogram. Husbands are generally put to the left of the wife. For
same-sex relationships, order can be determined by age.
The second part to a genogram is information about the people it depicts. The basic genogram
includes names, year of birth, place of birth, year of marriage, year of death, place of death,
aunts and uncles, first cousins only, extended family members back to great-grandparents of
the client. It can also include nicknames, occupations, cause of death, handicaps, religion,
special honors, substance abuse, and other noteworthy facts.
m: 1951 d: 1972
The third part of a genogram is adding symbols denoting relational dynamics within the family.
These symbols are added by the therapist to the completed genogram, in session with the
client. There have been many symbols created since Bowen first used the genogram, but only
symbols for his original relationship dynamics will be provided here. Fusion is noted with three
solid lines connecting the fused family members. Emotional cut-off between family members is
depicted with one solid line that is disrupted mid-way by two small horizontal lines. Emotionally
distant, but not cut-off, relationships can be noted with a dashed line. Conflict or hostility can be
noted with a zig-zag line.
Below is a sample genogram that demonstrates proper structure and provides information and
symbols for different relational dynamics in a fictional family. Key factors to pay particular
attention to: each generation must be on its own horizontal plane; men to the left, women to the
right; do not take siblings out of birth order, instead adjust the marriage line down and across in
order to connect them.
m: 1913 d: 1935 m: 1896 m: 1901 m: 1908
b: 1875, New York
d: 1935, New York
b: 1882, Boston
d: 1967, New York
b: 1879, Virginia
d: 1947, Virginia
b: 1880, Georgia
d: 1949, Virginia
b: 1882, Texas
d: 1965, Oklahoma
b: 1891, Texas
d: 1975, Oklahoma
b: 1893, Texas
d: 1978, California
b: 1895, Texas
d: 1948, Texas
Robert Smith, Jr.
b: 1898, New York
b: 1904, Virginia
d: 1986, Philadelphia
o: Housewife, Secretary
b: 1918, Texas
d: 1997, California
o: Plant Foreman
b: 1920, Texas
b: 1927, Penn.
b: 1930, Penn.
b: 1935, Penn.
b: 1946, Texas
b: 1946, Texas
b: 1940, Texas
o: Hair Stylist m: 1967
b: 1968, Arizona
b: 1971, Arizona
b: 1975, Arizona
b: 1972, Colorado
o: Police Officer