Leone Centre Glossary

Intergenerational Patterns in Family Therapy

Intergenerational Patterns

Intergenerational patterns in family therapy refer to the recurring behaviours, beliefs, and emotions passed down from one generation to the next within families. These patterns often shape family dynamics and individual behaviour, influencing how family members interact with one another.

Recurring family dynamics

Understanding intergenerational patterns can help identify recurring issues within a family. These patterns may include communication styles, conflict resolution methods, and emotional responses that have been inherited from previous generations. Recognising these patterns is important for developing healthier relationships and breaking cycles that may contribute to ongoing familial challenges.

Understanding this concept

Intergenerational patterns encompass the transmission of familial traits, beliefs, and behaviours across generations. Family therapists often examine these patterns to understand the roots of current family dynamics. By identifying these inherited behaviours, therapists can help family members develop a deeper understanding of their relational issues and work towards more harmonious interactions.

Generational transmission

Intergenerational patterns involve the transfer of behaviours, beliefs, and emotional responses from one generation to another. These patterns are often rooted in a family’s history and can significantly impact current family dynamics.

Key features and benefits of therapy

  1. Insight into family dynamics: Recognising intergenerational patterns provides valuable insights into how past generations influence present behaviours and relationships.
  2. Breaking cycles: By understanding these patterns, families can work towards breaking unhealthy cycles and creating more affirming interactions.
  3. Improved communication: Awareness of inherited communication styles can lead to more affirming and understanding interactions among family members.

Enhancing self-awareness

Recognising intergenerational patterns helps individuals and families gain a better understanding of their behaviours and relational issues. This self-awareness is the first step towards creating healthier and more supportive family interactions.

Exploring family history

Family therapists work with clients to explore their family history and identify recurring patterns. This process involves examining family stories, behaviours, and emotional responses that have been passed down through generations. By understanding these patterns, families can work towards altering negative behaviours and encouraging more affirming interactions.

Convenience and flexibility

Addressing intergenerational patterns in family therapy can be adapted to each family’s unique history and needs. This personalised approach allows for flexible and adaptive sessions that cater to the specific dynamics of the family.


What are intergenerational patterns?
Intergenerational patterns refer to the recurring behaviours, beliefs, and emotional responses passed down from one generation to the next within families.
Why are intergenerational patterns important in family therapy?
Understanding these patterns helps identify the roots of current familial issues and can aid in breaking unhealthy cycles, leading to healthier family dynamics.
How do therapists identify intergenerational patterns?
Therapists explore a family’s history, examining recurring behaviours and emotional responses that have been inherited from previous generations.


  1. Bowen, M. (1978). Family Therapy in Clinical Practice. Jason Aronson.
  2. McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., & Petry, S. (2008). Genograms: Assessment and Intervention. W. W. Norton & Company.
  3. Hardy, K. V., & Laszloffy, T. A. (2005). Teens Who Hurt: Clinical Interventions to Break the Cycle of Adolescent Violence. Guilford Press.
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This glossary provides definitions of various counselling terms and approaches for informational purposes only, without implying endorsement or service provision