What are Genograms?
Genograms are diagnostic tools which therapist’s utilize to create a multidimensional illustration of family relationship patterns (Galvin, 2015; Metcalf, 2011). They help the therapist understand relationship patterns and the underlying history of presenting problems. While similar to family trees in many respects since they both provide a visual depiction of family relationships. What makes genograms unique, are they also depict the nature and quality of family relationship patterns across time (Galvin, 2015a).
How would you use a Genogram?
Gavin, (2015a) states that the Genogram is intended to reflect an individual’s point-of-view of a family’s psychosocial history at a specific point in time. Therapists often utilize several sessions to explore each family member’s understanding of the family’s relationship history (Galvin, 2015a). It would be interesting to compare and analyze these results from all family members in order to uncover varied beliefs and perceptions of family roles and communication patterns. The process of creating a series of genograms can provide an opportunity to discuss family history in detail. This could facilitate an exploration of disagreements in order to multiple sides of an issue from a historical perspective. While my sister and I have never undergone a genogram like this our perspectives of the family are very different. I have personally found a synthesis of these divergent viewpoints very illuminating.
Issues Addressed in a Genogram?
Symbols utilized to create a genogram depict the marital status of couple relationships as well as any children created from the union (whether living or deceased) (Galvin, 2015c). Unlike the family tree, genograms also depict other qualities such as the degree of closeness, hostility, and abuse histories, and relationship triangles (Galvin, 2015c).
Taking time to analyze these results in detail also provides an array of more in-depth information according to Galvin, (2015b). For example, a close examination of dates shed light on the family’s response to key events. Cultural beliefs, as well as trends and patterns regarding boundaries and family structure also exist upon close examination of results (Galvin, 2015b). Finally, comparing results between family members can expose family secrets (Galvin, 2015b).
A Look @ My Own Familial Genogram
While this project was definitely a challenge technologically, it was also educational. I’m fairly happy with the outcome, although I noticed one minor mistake. I forgot to put the male parent on the left (Metcalf, 2011, p14). While I wasn’t able to make these changes to the attached photos, a corrected version of my genogram was emailed to the instructor with a registration key for viewing.
Sources of Information
My primary sources of information were my parents and sister. My grandparents are all deceased, and my mother’s family lives in the Philippines. Due time-zone differences, calling them wasn’t possible. I am also not very close to my father’s family and have not decided to contact them for this assignment. My husband’s portion of the family tree, was from his own memory. He isn’t very close to siblings and his parents are both deceased.
While I was unsure of whether or not it was necessary to include my husband’s family tree, I decided to do so, only because his family background differs so greatly from mine. It provided an opportunity to understand the ripple effect of family history on development and growth (Metcalf, 2011). In addition to a history of abuse and addiction, there are quite a few divorces throughout my husband’s family tree. In contrast, my family background included no history abuse or drug addiction or abuse. However, a huge cultural gap between my paternal and maternal relatives was quite problematic for me. I attribute this cultural gap to an misunderstanding between my maternal grandmother and mom. Additionally, this factor can explain in part why I was never close to my maternal cousins. I discuss this further below:
Genogram for My Maternal Side
Acquiring information for my mother’s family was especially challenging because much of the information we require predates World War 2. Few records are still existing from this time period due to widespread loss resulting from the war. The time zone differential also made contacting my mother’s family problematic. Several key insights can be noted when viewing this side of family tree.
My mother is closer to her maternal sister: My mother says she rarely had an opportunity to meet her father’s family. However, after World War 2, her four aunts and uncles lived nearby and she grew to know her mother’s extended family well. Without asking my grandparents, it is impossible to know the reason for this.
My mother has a distant relationship to her sister: My mom and her sister both came to the United States in the 1960’s in order to complete medical school. While it was never their intention to stay here, they ended up marrying and settling down in the States. Despite the fact they live in the same country, they rarely speak. While they deny animosity, I am uncertain as to the reason for this. My mother is unwilling to elaborate.
I feel a closer relationship with my maternal grandparents – Culturally, the Philippines is collectivist in its orientation and life centers around family. My mother has explained that a sense of love and connection comes through honoring your “duty”. This notion involves committing a significant portion of your identity and life’s purpose to your role within the family. In the individualistic society we live in, this is a foreign notion. As a byproduct of this cultural difference, I was always closer to my maternal grandparents. I felt they took it upon their selves to fulfill a role as grandparents and were aware of how important this role was. I came to understand all their actions and words as reflecting a sense of duty, which I understood as an expression of their love.
The women in my mother’s family are all well educated: As the story goes, my maternal great-grandmother (Dorotea Santiago-Gonzales) was an only daughter with several older brothers. Her family put the sons through college but not their daughter. T his angered her, and she determined all her daughters would get an education. Consequently, her daughter Maria became a teacher, Guadelupe a Chemist/Business owner, and Consuelo, an M.D. Her oldest daughter, Maria, carried this tradition further, and put her two daughters (my mother and aunt) through medical school.
Genogram for My Paternal Side
Similarities between my mother and father’s family include well-educated individuals who appear to enjoy long-lasting marriages. However, key differences, in a culture gap and divergent perspectives on a women’s proper role in the family. What follows are a few key insights from this side of my family tree.
My paternal grandmother (Charlotte) did not get along with my mom: My grandmother Charlotte was a stay-at-home mother. She was a byproduct of the “Leave-it-to-Beaver” era, and believed a woman’s place was in the home. My paternal grandmother never got along very well with my mother, and often made snide remarks about the fact that she worked. When I asked my mother about this, she downplayed the severity of things, although I notice she was often uncomfortable around the holidays. I think the fact that my mother is Catholic and my grandmother Charlotte was atheist didn’t help matters either.
I never felt comfortable around my cousins and was never close to them: In my immediate family, my mother was the disciplinarian. My father preferred to allow her to take the lead in this respect. As a result, I was raised according to my mother’s cultural beliefs. My mother discouraged me from dating until college. I was much more naïve and inexperienced in this particular area than a typical woman of your age. Additionally, my mother made me dress conservatively and preferred me to not wear any makeup until college. Finally, in keeping with her culture, I was to always show my mother respect. These character traits made me very different from my cousins. I had two female cousins the same age as me, and I was the oddball. They were your typical rebellious American teenagers. They wore makeup and the latest most fashionable clothes. I was a naïve tomboy that always listened to her mother. Fitting in was difficulty for this reason.
My father is very close to his brother Ted and has a distant relationship with Mike: My father has one brother who is about 15 months older who is still very close with. In contrast his youngest brother, Mike, is 18 years younger. They are not really very close, since my father was out of the house by the time Mike was born.
My Husband’s Family Tree
My husband’s genogram is reflective of a greater degree of turmoil, in comparison to my own. While this family background has been the source of much pain, my husband has endured these experiences to become an amazing and thoughtful husband/father. Key insights reflected in my husband’s family include the following:
My husband’s Father was Abusive: While my husband bears a great deal of anger towards his father, he has forgiven him. Nonetheless, painful memories still exist.
He was close to his grandmother who raised him: My husband is the youngest of four siblings, and didn’t get to know his parents very well. Fortunately, for this reason, he seems to have repeated fewer of their mistakes.
He never knew his mother who was an alcoholic and drug addict: He never new his mother very well since she wasn’t around. Due to lasting effects of prolonged substance use, she lasting cognitive deficits later in life. This made a relationship with her impossible.
Divorce is common in my husband’s family: Excluding my husband and his half-brother Wesley, everyone has been divorced at least once.
He isn’t close to his siblings: He is not close to his siblings Galen and Kathy. Since they are repeating many of the unhealthy patterns of his parents, he as chosen to distance himself from them. He doesn’t want this sort of influence upon our two sons.
Galvin, K. (2015a). Genograms: Constructing and interpreting interaction patterns. Retrieved
Galvin, K. (2015b). Clues. Retrieved from http://genograms.org/clues-2/
Galvin, K. (2015c). Symbols. Retrieved from http://genograms.org/symbols/
Genopro [Computer Software]. (1998). Retrieved from: http://www.genopro.com/setup/
Genopro (2015). Introduction to the Genogram. Retrieved from:
Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New
York: Springer Publishing Company