Through drawings, children consciously and unconsciously communicate emotions, feelings, and their perception of themselves. Personality, character, desires, concerns, and even fears are reflected in the strokes; therefore, a tool such as the tree-drawing test is handy in pedagogy and child psychology. It is interesting!
A bit of its origin
The first to use the tree-drawing test was Emil Jucker, a Swiss counselor dedicated to counseling children and adolescents. It was later adopted by various psychologists and graphologists such as Karl Koch, who in 1957 proposed it as a clinical method for dealing with personality and expressing conflicts. Other doctors like R. Stora and M. Passi also implemented it with excellent results.
What is the tree-drawing test?
It can be applied to both children and adults from five. Age is important because the child must have basic drawing skills for a test to be reliable. A three or four-year-old child does not usually capture details. The strokes are expected to be disproportionate, which has more to do with immaturity in the perception of reality than with personality.
How is it carried out?
Give the child a blank sheet of paper, a pencil, and an eraser. Ask him to draw three trees as he wants, but they have to be real. Make sure that he is comfortable and that there are no trees in sight that influence his drawing.
Hand out the sheet in a horizontal position. Pay attention if he changes the position because that speaks of his little adaptability and independent judgment.
Do not forget to mention that the drawing must be spontaneous; it does not need to be something very elaborate. After making the first tree, ask him to draw two others to his liking but also real.
The first tree represents the inner life of the person who drew it: traumas, memories, and ways of relating. The second is the family, and the third is the outside world.
It is the element that is most identified with the perception that the child has about himself. It is the “I”, his security, and the confidence with which he assumes the challenges of the outside world. Narrow or irregular weak trunks show a character that is influenced by others.
The width of the trunk allows us to know aspects of his personality.
Thin trunk: They are sensitive or vulnerable to external stresses. They tend to reason their feelings.
Wide trunk: They are impulsive and guided more by instinct than reason.
“Normal” trunk, neither broad nor thin: They are people who have emotional balance.
Branches and canopy
The upper part of the tree forms the branches and the crown. It must be seen as a whole that symbolizes the quality and intensity of the child’s relationship with the world.
The trace of the branches tells us about the child’s interpersonal relationships. If there are no branches, but there is foliage, it is usually interpreted that he does not like to be spontaneous in his relationship with others; instead, he likes to think and plan.
Upward branches are associated with optimism. When they are projected towards the sky, they show a desire to grow and interact with the world. If they end in a point or teeth, they can indicate impulsiveness or aggressiveness.
The downward branches show a depressed, pessimistic, and helpless emotional state. When they have detail (for example, like a weeping willow), they are associated with very sensitive people with a tendency to sadness.
Ascending and descending branches simultaneously: They are unstable and submissive people. If they intersect with a predominance of angular shapes, they are impulsive, tend to criticize others, and have a low tolerance for frustration.
If the crown is small in relation to the tree, it is often related to shyness and introversion.
If the canopy is large, it symbolizes extroversion, imagination, and interest in relating to the world. It speaks of difficult control of fantasy, narcissism, exhibitionism, and vanity if it is too big. A proportionate cup indicates balance, realism, and reflexivity. Smooth, wavy strokes on the canopy speak of adaptability, patience, understanding, and a taste for quiet activities. If the top seems crushed, it tells us of a feeling of stress towards the pressure of the outside world.
Root and soil
It is the unconscious, and its meaning is usually about stability. If it is present, it speaks of realistic criteria, and if it is absent, it indicates rootlessness, insecurity, and lack of support. If, in addition to the ground, it includes grass or a garden, it can refer to an internal conflict that causes discomfort.
Many roots speak of a positive attachment to the mother or family. Misshapen or disproportionate roots indicate a search for stability and curiosity about the occult. The lack of roots can be a symptom of a lack of security.
Other elements of interpretation
The distance between the trees speaks of the attachment or closeness among them.
The position and size of the drawings must also be considered. In the center, it shows a child with a strong personality; in the corners or small size, it shows us shyness.
Although the tree-drawing test is very interesting, pedagogues and psychologists always accompany it with other tools. This exercise cannot be interpreted as something absolute; it must be assessed with other tests.
Let´s keep in mind that all human beings, especially children, change. The same exercise can vary completely a few months apart. It depends a lot on the emotional moment that the child is going through.
This and other tests are just a guide. If you notice something striking, go to a pedagogue or psychologist to evaluate your child. Always remember that the one who has the last word is the expert.
Translated by: Ligia M. Oliver Manrique de Lara
Spanish version: Here
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