Warning Signs on Children’s Drawing


Since 1926, psychologist Florence Goodenough has been developing a concept to evaluate the intelligence of children (from the age of 4) based on drawings of a human figure.

Today, psychologists still use this test. It is known as the Gudinaf-Haris human figure drawing test.

Just over 10 years after Goodenough, psychologist Karen Machover was analyzing a number of drawings of children who did the Goodenough-Harris Drawing Test of Intelligence. She realized that drawings of children with the same intelligence level are still very different.

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She assumed that these differences are due to differences in the personality of children. Based on this, she developed the concept of studying the personality and emotions of the child through drawings. This technique is used today for children who are older than 7 years.

The Slovenian psychologist Antun Trstenjak was mostly concerned with the topic of expression of personality through lines, color, and form. He believes that lines and figures speak of self-control and rationality, the position of the figure in the image speaks of balance, selfishness, ambition, while the colors speak to the emotional life of the cartoonist.

When children are drawing the people from their environment (eg children’s drawing of the family), the position of people closer to or further from the child is an indicative element. More indicative elements are the position of each individual person on paper, what are the colors of the family members, what is the expression of their faces…

All authors give some general principles in this field, which aren’t confirmed by other methods. Here’s how Trstenjak interprets certain elements of the drawing:

LINES AND FIGURES: They speak of a degree of self-control and rationality

Thin and dashed lines – personality rigidity, uncertainty

Oval lines – modesty

Elongated lines – self-assurance aggressiveness

Zig-zag lines – unreliability, instability of character

Straight lines – confidence, aggression

Figures without details -personalities tend to daydream, eloquent, but unrealistic

Tiny and detailed figures – realism

Variable Intensity Lines – low persistence

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COLORS: Describe the emotional life of a child

Red – aggressiveness,

Blue – calmness, balanced,

Yellow – infantile;

Black – intelligence, rationality, control;

Green – the tendency to suppress emotions;

Brown – the importance of hygiene for the person who is drawing

Another interesting thing… With the years there is a decrease in the amount of usage of yellow and blue, and an increase in the amount of usage of red and green.

USE OF SPACE ON PAPER: They talk about personality features

Top of the paper – high level of aspiration

Drawing goes beyond the edges of paper – intolerance, often avoided by peers

The full surface of paper is filled – children who have strong self-control, often very dependent on adults and with a need to prove themselves

Paper used in proportion to size – balance

The figure touches the bottom of the paper – realism, people on earth

Constant repair of drawings – self-criticism, modesty

Warning signs on children’s drawing

The move

If the drawing is too simple, it reveals timidity, hypersensitivity and an introvert and often a very restrained child. It can also be a sign of the need for more attention, encouragement, and praise.

If there are many intersections of the characters and objects shown on the paper, the child is probably afraid that he will be wrong and won’t draw the picture as well as other children: his ability and skill should be commended and he should receive a lot of love.

When the move is overstated, to the point where the child almost pierced the paper with a pen, it could be a sign of great vanity. However, he is more likely to be aggressive and capricious child.

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The color

Both black and white can be colors of fear. If a child is leaving a lot of blank space on each page, they may be afraid of empty space and they need clearer boundaries, by his parents of course.

If he prefers colors like black and yellow, it can mean jealousy (or fear of losing one’s love).

Color should be seen in relation to the object being displayed: for example, the red faces of human characters may be a reflection of the repressed aggression and the need for the child to let it all out.

The Objects

Some elements may be related to children’s fears: monsters, mice, spiders, snakes, insects.

Often drawings of blood, doctors or hospitals can indicate anxiety.

The sun in the child’s subconscious represents the father. If it is dark or too far from the rest of the drawing, it may indicate the need for greater communication with the father.

The house is a symbol of the mother.

A blazing red roof can be associated with aggression towards the mother figure. Locked front door with a padlock or key can be a sign of fear of “attack” by other people. This can also be a sign of a child’s desire to open the door of his home to his friends.

Windows also play a very important role in children’s symbology: window sills full of flowers reflect joy, and closed windows or windows with bars reflect the fear of opening up to others.

Leaves falling from the trees represent the fear of loneliness and the child’s desire to be protected and always close to the parents.

Particular attention should be paid to shoes, feet, and legs: if a child draws their parents barefoot, without feet or legs, it may mean that they have little confidence in them and that they need more security.

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