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

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

Projective expressive or graphic techniques

In psychological evaluation, expressive or graphic techniques are a type of projective test (psychodynamics) where the instruction 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 trying to reproduce it. Moreover, according to psychodynamic theory, graphic behavior (drawing) is more free of conscious control than verbal behavior.

However, there are few empirical studies for expressive techniques. Furthermore, interpretation is characterized by a high level of subjectivity. This has meant that there are no standardized ways of evaluating the drawings made by children, something that makes it very difficult to compare results and draw general conclusions about their psychological state.

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

Family test: characteristics

As we have seen, the family test (or family drawing test) is an expressive or graphic type of projective test, created by Maurice Porot (1952). The instruction given to the subject under examination is to draw a family, without restrictions or concretions . There are other versions of this instruction, such as asking the subject to draw his/her family. After the drawing, the examiner asks the subject about his/her production.

The family test is based on the technique of free drawing; this type of drawing is widely practiced by children, and they like it. Specifically, the test is a personality test that can be administered to children from 5 years of age up to adolescence .

This is one of the most popular and widely used tests for exploring children’s affectivity, which emphasizes the projective aspects. In addition, it clinically evaluates 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 on aspects of the child’s communication with other members of the family and of the remaining members among themselves.


The use and interpretation of the family test is based on the psychoanalytic principles of projection, since it allows the free expression of the feelings of the minors towards their relatives, especially their parents.

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


An important author for the test was also Louis Corman , who introduced important modifications to the instructions given by Porot. While Porot asked the child to “draw your family”, Corman’s motto was “draw a family, a family that you imagine”.

On the other hand, Bums and Kaufman (1972) present a modified version of the family test, called “The Kinetic Test of 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 stick figures. Remember that you must draw each person doing something, engaged in some kind of action.


After giving the instruction to the child or adolescent, the examiner carries out a brief interview , which greatly reinforces the interpretation that the psychologist will make.

Thus, after reinforcing the child by his drawing, he is asked a series of questions about his imagined family and its members. To do this, all the necessary questions will be included, considering the circumstances of each one and stimulating at all times the free expression of the child or adolescent.

What are you exploring?

The family test is considered a test with important diagnostic value in circles linked to psychodynamic therapies. Through it , the aim is to understand the difficulties of adaptation to the family environment and the oedipal conflicts and fraternal rivalry .

Moreover, it is a test designed to reflect the intellectual development of the child, since through different elements of the stroke and the drawing, the maturative development of the child can be determined to some extent (at each stage of childhood the drawing is of one kind or another, as established by Luquet).

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


The creator of the family test, Maurice Porot (1952), believes that telling a child to draw his family allows him to know it as he represents it, which is more important than knowing what it is like in reality.

On the other hand, Louis Corman (1961) considers that the projection is easier if the indication is more vague , something like: “Draw a family that you imagine”. According to him, this slogan allows unconscious tendencies to be expressed more easily.

Another author, Korbman, mentioned in a series of studies that in clinical practice with young children, the most appropriate slogan in the family test is “Draw your family”; this is based on the assumption that the child is a subject in training, where repression is less, and is considered not to defend himself as much as the adult. In other words, he projects himself openly.

Bibliographic references:

  • Buela-Casal, G.; Sierra, J.C. (1997). Manual de evaluación psicológica. Siglo XXI. Madrid.
  • Cohen, R.J., Swerdlik, M.E. (2002) Psychological testing and assessment. McGraw-Hill. Madrid.
  • Corman, L. (1967). The Family Drawing Test in medical-pedagogical practice. Kapelusz, Buenos Aires, 1-27.
  • Freud, S. (1920), Beyond the Pleasure Principle, XVIII (2nd ed.), London: Hogarth Press.
  • Miller, A. (1984). Thou shalt not be aware: society’s betrayal of the child. New York: Meridan Printing.