Understanding Families Beyond Ruler and Square. Advances in the Use of the Genogram in Family Sociology Research

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 13:00
Location: Hörsaal 41 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Rosalina COSTA, Universidade de Evora, Portugal, CEPESE, Portugal
As many people enjoy telling the story of their family, to design genograms has never been easier than today. Nonetheless, genograms seem to be used mostly in the anthropology of kinship, psychology, nursing, family therapy and counselling, with a restricted use in the sociological practice. This paper aims to present the familial genogram to a wide audience of family sociologists and to illustrate and explore its possibilities within the framework of qualitative strategies adapted for the sociological inquiry. A genogram is a graphic representation of a particular family, desirably involving more than one generation. Using symbols and standard rules, it synthesizes multiple data ranging from the genetic aspects, medical, social, behavioural, relational and cultural while providing an account of the family structure, its functioning and dynamics. Used either as a data collection technique, usually together with a semi-structured interview, or as a data analysis procedure, it allows the researcher to review at any time relevant information about the interviewee (ego), in particular, demographic data, pathways of conjugal and parental life, both for the ascendants and descendants. Despite being a static representation of the family, whose understanding requires the knowledge about certain rules and symbols, its analysis is very fast and extremely intuitive. Additionally, designing family genograms nowadays does not have to be a difficult task of using pencil, ruler, square or graph paper. Specific software (e.g. GenoPro®) exists to turn the task easier and more professional while allowing for a rapid and friendly incorporation of results in research reports. Using empirical illustrations from previous work, this paper ultimately seeks to (re)discover genograms within the field of Sociology of Families and, thereby, contribute to broaden the array of commonly employed qualitative research methods within the field.