To be used by practitioners to aid reflective thinking


What is a chronology?

A chronology is a sequential list of events in date order, recording all significant events in a child or young person's life; including positive changes and achievements.  Chronologies should start from the child’s birth, sometimes they may start before birth; for example where an older sibling died, or significant events during pregnancy.


When would you use it?

A chronology can be used to help structure information when working with children and families and to help decision making.  In order to achieve this, the chronology must be concise, relevant and updated when new events occur. Events should be listed with a summary of significant information rather than a detailed descriptive account. The chronology is not a life story book and should not duplicate the case history.

The chronology is a useful way of gaining an overview and for identifying patterns within families and children’s lives. It should be used as an analytical tool to help understand the impact, both immediate and cumulative, of events and changes on the child or young person's developmental progress.

The primary function of a chronology is to record factual information. It should not contain contentious material, opinion or judgement. The chronology is used to inform an assessment and analysis, but this should be recorded separately. 


What should you include in a chronology?

It is not possible to specify every event that could or should be included in a chronology, because different audiences have different information requirements. The relevance of particular ‘significant’ events may vary according to the purpose of the chronology and the time span being covered.

Professional judgment has to be exercised in deciding what is significant, relevant and what level of detail is required. For example: a Child Protection Conference may require detail of incidents that support the s47 enquiry and assessment, such as not keeping appointments, specific dates of school attendance and punctuality etc.

Key features of a chronology

In most circumstances the following should be included. Some examples are given, although these are not exhaustive and should only be used as a guide.

1. Significant events and changes in the circumstances of the child and family. Marriages, co-habitations, relationships, significant friendships, pets, births, deaths and changes in adults/children in the family composition and household (link to a genogram). Significant family rifts, changes of residence (temporary or permanent), episodes of homelessness, changes in carers, contact arrangements. Events of religious and/or cultural significance (e.g. baptism).

2. Previous activity with your service. E.g: referrals, work undertaken, closures, key incidents giving rise to concerns about harm/parental care, nature of intervention, services provided, key planning/decision making meetings.

It is important to identify the practitioners involved (their name and role), who was seen, briefly state the purpose of the action/s and the outcome. This gives the reader the necessary context to understand the meaning of the information, for example:

“08.03.2012 Home visit carried out. “
This provides insufficient information. A better record would be:

“08.03.2012 Home visited carried out by worker (Helen Brownlie) and Family Support Worker (Chris Orr), to talk about the plan with Mrs Shendry and Daniel. We discussed progress about getting Daniel back into school. Daniel’s attendance has improved to 95%.”

3. Child’s health history.  Specific details of on-going diagnosed health conditions and impairments.  Parents/carers health may also be relevant if it impacts on the child and family.

4. Education, training and employment. The child’s educational achievements including:

  • Qualifications,
  • Changes of school/educational establishment.
  • Particulars of significant educational events, such as Education, Health and Care Plan. These can also include non-academic achievements, for example: membership of the school netball team, periods of exclusion and absence.
  • Any additional training or activities attended such as voluntary work, clubs or cycling proficiency.
  • Any paid employment they may have.
  • Changes in parents/carers employment status are also relevant if they have significantly impacted on the child and family.

5. History of any offences. Details of offences for which the child has received a caution, orders, fines, sentences, periods in custody. This includes relevant offences by significant adults. Note on confidentiality: legal advice should be sought about data protection requirements.

We acknowledge the work of Lucie Heyes (Practice Development Officer, Islington) in the preparation of the above material on Chronologies.

A copy of this Tool is available on request