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Genealogy in the Psyche Department

Perhaps a psychological mapping of the human genome would tell us the future odds of being bullied in school, or of becoming a priest.

Genes inherited from the “family tribe” contribute to the formation of self through a complicated process that incorporates a fusion of interrelated factors: genetic traits, familial relationships, societal interactions, educational opportunities, random influences, etc.

Perhaps the results of male and female parenting could be likened to so-called strands of “psychological” inheritance — the maternal and paternal branches — replicated through each generation. The result could be a composite (or metaphor) that describes the “personal imprint” of one’s self and siblings.

For example: If a specific trait is shared on both of your mother’s and father’s side, it could be a deep factor in your cross-bred personality. Deep factors from both parents (through the process of child-rearing) could represent a significant pattern in the blueprint that is yourself. Chances are that most of your brothers and sisters will share a similar “inherited” template of human traits.

Creating a Self Portfolio

Which has a greater influence on you — the maternal or paternal? (One’s gender may not necessarily predispose an offspring to emulate one parent over another.) If most traits that describe you are concentrated on your mother’s side, you could be called a Child of the Maternal. If most traits come from your father’s side, you could be dubbed a Child of the Paternal. If the number is about the same, the result is an Equal Hybrid. (Such terms represent metaphorical descriptions, rather than authentic definitions.)

Preparing a Psychological Checklist

Select the traits that stand out on your mother’s side, and on your father’s side, associated with most members of that side of the family (including your aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc.) Use your judgment to determine which trait belongs to which family half, and then check the appropriate box. If neither trait applies, check neither box. If both apply, check both boxes. After the Checklist has been completed, you’ll see a chart of family traits that might represent the inherited “code” of your family.

Which types of psychological traits should you examine? Well, here’s a list…

Sensitive / Ambitious / Religious / Impulsive / Outgoing / Creative / Serious / Educated / Honest / Over-Eater / Moody / Trouble Maker / Good Dancer

Plotting a simple graph to determine a unique family portrait represents a beginner’s guide to charting the ancestral transmission of characteristics from one generation to the next. To generate a genealogical profile on a granular or molecular level would be much more ambitious! In addition, the sheer scope of the project could shatter the status quo and might lead to abuse or discrimination.

On the other hand, the coin has two sides.

A psychological Human Genome Project could facilitate the design of future treatments tailored to fit a client’s etiological needs. Consider a hypothetical patient, named Claudia. Her cocaine addiction could be analyzed as the result of a sequence of effects (genetic and psychological) stemming from the effects of her mother’s bipolar depression and her father’s domestic abuse.

Prediction of Claudia’s response to treatment could be based on her so-called “mental” genome. The ability to manage her symptoms with a formula that respects their causal lineage could be ground-breaking. (Like the real Human Genome Project, the impact of random fluctuations could alter the ultimate pattern of clinical expectations.)

It’s important to realize, of course, that no human like Claudia is an island. Plotting the influential factors that exist in the maelstrom of a person’s life resembles the science of meteorology — but despite that analogy, we appear to be getting better and better at predicting the weather.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to splicing together a family portrait of my own personal development, I suppose I’m an Equal Hybrid. Most of my siblings tilt in one direction or another.

The speculations proposed here are not unique. Similar techniques have been applied for decades, in the form of therapists who record their clients’ case histories and through numerous longitudinal studies of “spectrum” disorders (such as OCD and Tourette’s) found in genetic families. The search for hidden clues to escalate a deeper understanding of the human mind remains ongoing.

Would a fuller appreciation of “psychological” genealogy help us better to understand the psychic underpinnings of people…or would its intrusive penetration into society degenerate into a Brave New World? The potential for both exists. The more the brain is digested in the stomach of rational analysis, the more it’s encouraged to reveal…

Genealogy in the Psyche Department

John DiPrete

John DiPrete has contributed to Psych Central, MacWorld, Perceptual and Motor Skills, Medical Hypotheses, Speculations in Science and Technology, among other outlets. His Web site,, explores the fun side of neuroscience (ranging from tactile illusions to brain teasers), and has been recommended by PC World Online.

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APA Reference
DiPrete, J. (2018). Genealogy in the Psyche Department. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 11 Feb 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.