Family testing: what is it and how is this projective test used

Projective techniques aim to bring out the repressed or unconscious matter of the person, through drawings, images, words, etc. In this article we will get to know one of them, the family test, or family drawing test, created by Maurice Porot (1952) and applied in childhood and adolescence.

In this project-type test, the child is asked to draw a family, and from there a series of questions are asked to later analyze their answers, as well as the drawing itself. It is an expressive technique that aims to explore how the child is placed in his family environment.

    Expressive or graphic projective techniques

    In psychological assessment, expressive or graphic techniques are a type of projective (psychodynamic) test where the slogan given to the subject is to draw certain elements; through the drawing, the subject is supposed to manifest his personal way of organizing the world and of trying to reproduce it. In addition, according to psychodynamic theory, graphic behavior (drawing) is more free from conscious control than verbal behavior.

    However, there are few empirical studies on expressive techniques. In addition, the interpretation is characterized by a high level of subjectivity. This means that there are no standardized methods for evaluating the drawings made by the little ones, which makes it very difficult to be able to compare the results and to draw general conclusions about their psychological state.

    According to Machover (1949), the drawings provide useful data for formulating clinical hypotheses, but it is essential to make these hypotheses from the convergence of the psychopathological evidence found in the test with data obtained by other methods.

    Family test: characteristics

    As we have seen, the familial test (or family drawing test) is a projective test of an expressive or graphic type, created by Maurici Porot (1952). The slogan given to the subject examined is which draws a family, without restrictions or concretions. There are other versions of this slogan, such as asking him to draw his family. After the drawing, the examiner asks the subject about his production.

    The family test is based on the free drawing technique; this type of drawing is very popular with children, and they appreciate it. More specifically, the test is a personality test that can be given to children from 5 years old and up to adolescence.

    It is one of the most popular and widely used affectivity tests for children, which emphasizes projective aspects. In addition, it clinically assesses how the child subjectively perceives the relationships between family members and how he or she is included in this family system.

    On the other hand, the family test also allows research to be carried out on aspects of the child’s communication with other family members and the remaining members of each other.


    The use and interpretation of the family test are based on psychoanalytic principles projection, because it allows the free expression of the feelings of minors towards their relatives, in particular their parents.

    In addition, the test aims to reflect the situation in which the same subjects are placed in their family environment.


    An important author for the test was also Louis Corman, Which made significant changes to the instructions given by Porot. While Porot asked the child to “draw your family”, Corman’s slogan was “draw a family, a family you imagine”.

    On the other hand, Bums and Kaufman (1972) present a modified version of the family test, called “The kinetic test of the family drawing”, for which they propose evaluation criteria. In this version they use the slogans: “Draw a picture of your family including yourself doing something” and “Try to make whole people, not cartoons or sticks. Remember that you have to draw everyone doing something, busy in some sort of action.


    After giving the slogan to the child or adolescent, the examiner conducts a brief interview, Which greatly strengthens the interpretation to be made by the psychologist.

    Thus, after strengthening the child by his drawing, a series of questions is asked about his imagined family and its members. To do this, all the necessary questions will be included, taking into account individual circumstances and stimulating the free expression of the child or adolescent at all times.

    What are you exploring?

    The familial test is considered a test of significant diagnostic value in circles related to psychodynamic therapy. Through him it aims to know the difficulties of adaptation to the family environment and the oedipal conflicts and fraternal rivalries.

    In addition, this is a test designed to reflect the intellectual development of the child, since through different elements of the line and drawing can to some extent determine the development of the child’s maturation (at each stage of childhood, the drawing is of one type or another, as established by Luquet).

    However, it is important to mention that the family test is used more to assess or appreciate the emotional aspects of the child than to assess his intellectual development and maturation, although it is even used to assess certain aspects of learning problems.


    The creator of the family test, Maurici Porot (1952), considers that telling the child to draw his family allows him to know it as he represents it, which is more important than knowing what it really is.

    On another side, Louis Corman (1961) considers that the projection is done more easily if the indication is more vague, Something like “Draw a family you can imagine”. According to him, this slogan makes it easier to express unconscious tendencies.

    Another author, Korbman, has mentioned in a series of studies that in clinical practice with young children, the most appropriate slogan in family testing is “Draw your family”; this is based on the case where the child is a subject in training, where repression is less, and is not considered as an advocate as much as the adult. In other words, it is projected openly.

    Bibliographical references:

    • Buela-Casal, G .; Serra, JC (1997). Manual of psychological assessment. 21st century ed. Madrid.
    • Cohen, RJ, Swerdlik, ME (2002) Psychological Testing and Assessment. McGraw-Hill. Madrid.
    • Corman, L. (1967). The family drawing test in medico-pedagogical practice. Kapelusz, Buenos Aires, 1-27.
    • Freud, S. (1920), Beyond the Pleasure Principle, XVIII (2nd ed.), London: Hogarth Press.
    • Miller, A. (1984). You won’t know: the betrayal of the child by society. New York: Meridan Print.

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