Constructing theMulti-Generational Genogram Training Module for Multi-Generational Genogram and Cultural Trauma Research Dr. Jeffrey K. Edwards Dr. James Ruby Department of Counselor Education Family Counseling Program Northeastern Illinois University (copyright, 2006)
• ”Widely used by both family therapists and family physicians, the Genogram is a graphic way of organizing the mass of information gathered during a family assessment and finding patterns in the family system.”• McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., & Shellenberger, S. (1999). Genograms: Assessment and Intervention (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: W. W. Norton & Co, Inc.
Related Concepts• Multigenerational transmission• What a Genogram looks for - – The “presence of the past” in day to day living and the emotional responses to this – The nature and the degree of intensity of the emotional responses are passed down from generation to generation
First things first• Get the basic information down on paper starting with your immediate family.• Circles are for females• Squares are for males
Basic Notations• Connect the people using straight lines if the family has a legal marital relationship• Mark a back slash across the line, if a divorce occurred.
Notations, continued• Indicate the first name and age of the person, the date of marriage, and/or divorce close to the graphic shapes. Bob Carol 46 45 Married 4/05/1982, Divorced 10/09/1998
Notations, continued• Connect the children to the parents, constructing a family of origin for them. Children are noted from oldest to youngest moving left to right. The index person of the Genogram (person from whose perspective it is being drawn) is identified with a double line. Thus, the Genogram above is being constructed by the youngest son.
Notations, continued• Other common notations follow:A couple living together unmarried A married couple that is separated A deceased family member (date of death is often noted)
Notations, continued• In the case of divorce where children were involved, you place the slash mark through the relationship line in such a way that it is clear with whom the children primarily live/lived
Notations, continued• Other important notations would include… Identical Twins Fraternal Twins Adopted Child Foster Child Stillbirth Miscarriage
Notations, continued• It is also often appropriate to describe the “quality” or “nature” of family relationships using specific symbols A conflictual relationship A close relationship An enmeshed relationship
Notations, continued• Investigation through the genogram commonly requires asking parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who are alive to help. Genograms go back in time, looking for patterns of behavior, strengths and world-views, so the earlier generations hold valuable information.
• One continues going backward for several generations, until you can either go no further, or the data becomes more myth than “fact.” But, myths are also important to family world-views. Both sides of each family are indicated, and yes you need lots of big sheets of paper.
Family Patterns• Genograms look for patterns that connect (Bateson,2000 ). Patterns indicate how family members pass on their view of the world, including strengths, resiliencies as well as dysfunctional patterns.• World-views can include things like how one survives in a hostile world, religious beliefs, the meaning of education in one’s life, any family operating principles that inform family members about day to day life.
Dysfunctional as well as strength-oriented relationships occur in all families.• Notations regarding intergenerational family patterns such as beliefs about education, values, honoring elders, how the genders relate with one another, use of the “golden rule,” patriotism, the need and use of money, all are passed on in various ways to the generations that come after. In constructing the Genogram, one wants to look backward, in order to make sense of the current situation, so one can have choices about what is passed on to the future.
Dysfunctional as well as strength relationships occur in all family.• The investigation of family patterns, rather than being a trip down “dysfunctional memory lane,” is about understanding what has been, so one can influence what will be.
Dysfunctional as well as strength-oriented relationships occur in all families.• Sexual abuse is shown by a large jagged line with an arrow from the abuser to the abused.• Physical abuse is shown by a small jagged line and an arrow from the abuser to the abused.• A relationship where one member is focused unhealthily on another member is depicted by a straight line with an arrow from the focused member to the member being focused upon.• A relationship that is cutoff, where the two family members do not have contact, is shown with two short perpendicular lines that break up the relationship line.
Triangles• Another pattern in family relationships is the triangle. In a family system, a triangle represents the coalition of two family members against another family member and can be represented on a Genogram. Triangles are often seen among two parents and one child, where one of the parents creates an alliance with the child against the other parent. Another classic triangle involves a son, his wife and his mother. Such a triangle may play out in a variety of ways. For example, the wife may blame her mother-in-law for her frustrations with her husband, while the mother-in-law blames the wife for taking her son away.
Some novel warm-up questions• What do you remember about the family with whom you grew up?• Where did you live?• Did you have any pets?• What was your relationship like with your parents and/or siblings?• What did your father and mother do together that made an impact on you?
Some more novel questions• What was uncle “Joe” like?• Do you know anything about your great grandparents?• Did your parents or grandparents ever talk about their parents to you?• What were you like as a little girl/boy?• Who did/do you most resemble physically and in personality?
Basics of information gathering• First and foremost, attempt to get as much factual data about the family graphic constellation as possible.• Then ask questions about relationships, transmission of ideas, and world-views that can be gathered. This is not an inquisition but simply a dialog. If your elder says they do not want to talk about a subject, say, “That’s OK, but can help me understand if it is a painful memory or why you are uncomfortable?” If they continue to resist, respect their boundary and move on.
Questions pertinent to the cultural event.• Because of the sensitive nature of the cultural events that we are investigating, basic questions about how your family and elders view and understand their impact needs to be done with sensitivity. Questions such as “Do you think the ‘event’ affected our family? What, if anything, do you remember about the ‘event?’ Did your mom, dad or grandparents talk about it at all? What did they say? Did it make our family change or become different in any way - positively or negatively?”• Again,if they don’t want to discuss it, or become emotional in any way, simply be quiet, be respectful, be concerned, be understanding.
Basic Matters• Remember to ask your parents or grandparents to sign the informed consent form necessary for the research study• Provide for them the counseling resource that is appropriate for them & their location• Take only as much time as is convenient for them for the interview• Respect their boundaries/limitations• Thank them for their time
References• McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., & Shellenberger, S. (1999). Genograms: Assessment and Intervention (2nd ed.). New York, NY, US: W. W. Norton & Co, Inc.• Bateson, G. (2000). Steps to an Ecology of Mind: Collected Essays in Anthropology, Psychiatry, Evolution, and Epistemology. Chicago, USA: University of Chicago Press.