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What are rules for building basic genograms?

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Quick Answer

Basic standard genograms, also called family diagrams, use squares to signify males, circles for females, horizontal lines to represent family relationships within a generation and vertical lines to represent parent-child connections. In relationships, males are placed on the left, females are placed on the right and children are ordered by age, with the oldest to the left.

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Full Answer

Genograms employ standardized symbols to visually display information about a family's interrelationships in greater detail than a traditional family tree. Multiple generations and information, such as divorces, twins, stepchildren and more, can be represented on a genogram. Professionals in education and medicine, as well as family therapy programs, use these charts to analyze hereditary tendencies and other patterns across generations. Genograms can be drawn by hand or made using computer programs.

Other common genogram symbols include an "x" over a square or circle to indicate a deceased person, and a triangle to indicate a pregnancy. A single slash across a horizontal line indicates a separation, and a double slash means a divorce. Dashed horizontal lines indicate people living together and potentially having children but not officially married, while dashed vertical lines indicate adopted or foster children. A pair of forked vertical lines represent twins, with an additional horizontal line between them to mark identical twins.

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