# Forbidden graph characterization

In graph theory, a branch of mathematics, many important families of graphs can be described by a finite set of individual graphs
that do not belong to the family and further exclude all graphs from the family which contain any of these forbidden graphs as (induced) subgraph or minor.
A prototypical example of this phenomenon is Kuratowski's theorem, which states that a graph is planar (can be drawn without crossings in the plane) if and only if it does not contain either of two forbidden graphs, the complete graph *K*_{5} and the complete bipartite graph *K*_{3,3}. For Kuratowski's theorem, the notion of containment is that of graph homeomorphism, in which a subdivision of one graph appears as a subgraph of the other. Thus, every graph either has a planar drawing (in which case it belongs to the family of planar graphs) or it has a subdivision of one of these two graphs as a subgraph (in which case it does not belong to the planar graphs).

More generally, a **forbidden graph characterization** is a method of specifying a family of graph, or hypergraph, structures, by specifying substructures that are forbidden from existing within any graph in the family. Different families vary in the nature of what is *forbidden*. In general, a structure *G* is a member of a family if and only if a forbidden substructure is **not** contained in *G*. The **forbidden substructure** might be one of:

- subgraphs, smaller graphs obtained from subsets of the vertices and edges of a larger graph,
- induced subgraphs, smaller graphs obtained by selecting a subset of the vertices and using all edges with both endpoints in that subset,
- homeomorphic subgraphs (also called topological minors), smaller graphs obtained from subgraphs by collapsing paths of degree-two vertices to single edges, or
- graph minors, smaller graphs obtained from subgraphs by arbitrary edge contractions.

The set of structures that are forbidden from belonging to a given graph family can also be called an **obstruction set** for that family.

Forbidden graph characterizations may be used in algorithms for testing whether a graph belongs to a given family. In many cases, it is possible to test in polynomial time whether a given graph contains any of the members of the obstruction set, and therefore whether it belongs to the family defined by that obstruction set.

In order for a family to have a forbidden graph characterization, with a particular type of substructure, the family must be closed under substructures. That is, every substructure (of a given type) of a graph in the family must be another graph in the family. Equivalently, if a graph is not part of the family, all larger graphs containing it as a substructure must also be excluded from the family. When this is true, there always exists an obstruction set (the set of graphs that are not in the family but whose smaller substructures all belong to the family). However, for some notions of what a substructure is, this obstruction set could be infinite. The Robertson–Seymour theorem proves that, for the particular case of graph minors, a family that is closed under minors always has a finite obstruction set.

## List of forbidden characterizations for graphs and hypergraphs

Family | Forbidden graphs | Relation | Reference | ||||
---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Forests | loops, pairs of parallel edges, and cycles of all lengths | subgraph | Definition | ||||

a loop (for multigraphs) or a triangle K_{3} (for simple graphs) |
graph minor | Definition | |||||

Claw-free graphs | star K_{1,3} |
induced subgraph | Definition | ||||

Comparability graphs | induced subgraph | ||||||

Triangle-free graphs | triangle K_{3} |
induced subgraph | Definition | ||||

Planar graphs | K_{5} and K_{3,3} |
homeomorphic subgraph | Kuratowski's theorem | ||||

K_{5} and K_{3,3} |
graph minor | Wagner's theorem | |||||

Outerplanar graphs | K_{4} and K_{2,3} |
graph minor | Diestel (2000),[1] p. 107 | ||||

Outer 1-planar graphs | five forbidden minors | graph minor | Auer et al. (2013)[2] | ||||

Graphs of fixed genus | a finite obstruction set | graph minor | Diestel (2000),[1] p. 275 | ||||

Apex graphs | a finite obstruction set | graph minor | [3] | ||||

Linklessly embeddable graphs | The Petersen family | graph minor | [4] | ||||

Bipartite graphs | odd cycles | subgraph | [5] | ||||

Chordal graphs | cycles of length 4 or more | induced subgraph | [6] | ||||

Perfect graphs | cycles of odd length 5 or more or their complements | induced subgraph | [7] | ||||

Line graph of graphs | nine forbidden subgraphs (listed here) | induced subgraph | [8] | ||||

Graph unions of cactus graphs | the four-vertex diamond graph formed by removing an edge from the complete graph K_{4} |
graph minor | [9] | ||||

Ladder graphs | K_{2,3} and its dual graph |
homeomorphic subgraph | [10] | ||||

split graphs | induced subgraph | [11] | |||||

2-connected series-parallel (treewidth ≤ 2 branchwidth ≤ 2) | K_{4} |
graph minor | Diestel (2000),[1] p. 327 | ||||

treewidth ≤ 3 | K_{5}, octahedron, pentagonal prism, Wagner graph |
graph minor | [12] | ||||

branchwidth ≤ 3 | K_{5}, octahedron, cube, Wagner graph |
graph minor | [13] | ||||

Complement-reducible graphs (cographs) | 4-vertex path P_{4} |
induced subgraph | [14] | ||||

Trivially perfect graphs | 4-vertex path P_{4} and 4-vertex cycle C_{4} |
induced subgraph | [15] | ||||

Threshold graphs | 4-vertex path P_{4}, 4-vertex cycle C_{4}, and complement of C_{4} |
induced subgraph | [15] | ||||

Line graph of 3-uniform linear hypergraphs | a finite list of forbidden induced subgraphs with minimum degree at least 19 | induced subgraph | [16] | ||||

Line graph of k-uniform linear hypergraphs, k > 3 |
a finite list of forbidden induced subgraphs with minimum edge degree at least 2k^{2} − 3k + 1 |
induced subgraph | [17][18] | ||||

Graphs ΔY-reducible to a single vertex | a finite list of at least 68 billion distinct (1,2,3)-clique sums | graph minor | [19] | ||||

General theorems | |||||||

a family defined by an induced-hereditary property | a (not necessarily finite) obstruction set | induced subgraph | |||||

a family defined by a minor-hereditary property | a finite obstruction set | graph minor | Robertson–Seymour theorem |

## References

- Diestel, Reinhard (2000),
*Graph Theory*, Graduate Texts in Mathematics,**173**, Springer-Verlag, ISBN 0-387-98976-5. - Auer, Christopher; Bachmaier, Christian; Brandenburg, Franz J.; Gleißner, Andreas; Hanauer, Kathrin; Neuwirth, Daniel; Reislhuber, Josef (2013), "Recognizing outer 1-planar graphs in linear time", in Wismath, Stephen; Wolff, Alexander (eds.),
*21st International Symposium, GD 2013, Bordeaux, France, September 23-25, 2013, Revised Selected Papers*, Lecture Notes in Computer Science,**8242**, pp. 107–118, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-03841-4_10. - Gupta, A.; Impagliazzo, R. (1991), "Computing planar intertwines",
*Proc. 32nd IEEE Symposium on Foundations of Computer Science (FOCS '91)*, IEEE Computer Society, pp. 802–811, doi:10.1109/SFCS.1991.185452. - Robertson, Neil; Seymour, P. D.; Thomas, Robin (1993), "Linkless embeddings of graphs in 3-space",
*Bulletin of the American Mathematical Society*,**28**(1): 84–89, arXiv:math/9301216, doi:10.1090/S0273-0979-1993-00335-5, MR 1164063. - Béla Bollobás (1998) "Modern Graph Theory", Springer, ISBN 0-387-98488-7 p. 9
- Kashiwabara, Toshinobu (1981), "Algorithms for some intersection graphs", in Saito, Nobuji; Nishizeki, Takao (eds.),
*Graph Theory and Algorithms, 17th Symposium of Research Institute of Electric Communication, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan, October 24-25, 1980, Proceedings*, Lecture Notes in Computer Science,**108**, Springer-Verlag, pp. 171–181, doi:10.1007/3-540-10704-5\_15. - Chudnovsky, Maria; Robertson, Neil; Seymour, Paul; Thomas, Robin (2006), "The strong perfect graph theorem" (PDF),
*Annals of Mathematics*,**164**(1): 51–229, arXiv:math/0212070v1, doi:10.4007/annals.2006.164.51. - Beineke, L. W. (1968), "Derived graphs of digraphs", in Sachs, H.; Voss, H.-J.; Walter, H.-J. (eds.),
*Beiträge zur Graphentheorie*, Leipzig: Teubner, pp. 17–33. - El-Mallah, Ehab; Colbourn, Charles J. (1988), "The complexity of some edge deletion problems",
*IEEE Transactions on Circuits and Systems*,**35**(3): 354–362, doi:10.1109/31.1748. - Takamizawa, K.; Nishizeki, Takao; Saito, Nobuji (1981), "Combinatorial problems on series-parallel graphs",
*Discrete Applied Mathematics*,**3**(1): 75–76, doi:10.1016/0166-218X(81)90031-7. - Földes, Stéphane; Hammer, Peter Ladislaw (1977a), "Split graphs",
*Proceedings of the Eighth Southeastern Conference on Combinatorics, Graph Theory and Computing (Louisiana State Univ., Baton Rouge, La., 1977)*, Congressus Numerantium,**XIX**, Winnipeg: Utilitas Math., pp. 311–315, MR 0505860 - Bodlaender, Hans L. (1998), "A partial
*k*-arboretum of graphs with bounded treewidth",*Theoretical Computer Science*,**209**(1–2): 1–45, doi:10.1016/S0304-3975(97)00228-4. - Bodlaender, Hans L.; Thilikos, Dimitrios M. (1999), "Graphs with branchwidth at most three",
*Journal of Algorithms*,**32**(2): 167–194, doi:10.1006/jagm.1999.1011. - Seinsche, D. (1974), "On a property of the class of
*n*-colorable graphs",*Journal of Combinatorial Theory, Series B*,**16**(2): 191–193, doi:10.1016/0095-8956(74)90063-X, MR 0337679 - Golumbic, Martin Charles (1978), "Trivially perfect graphs",
*Discrete Mathematics*,**24**(1): 105–107, doi:10.1016/0012-365X(78)90178-4.. - Metelsky, Yury; Tyshkevich, Regina (1997), "On line graphs of linear 3-uniform hypergraphs",
*Journal of Graph Theory*,**25**(4): 243–251, doi:10.1002/(SICI)1097-0118(199708)25:4<243::AID-JGT1>3.0.CO;2-K, MR 1459889 - Jacobson, M. S.; Kézdy, Andre E.; Lehel, Jeno (1997), "Recognizing intersection graphs of linear uniform hypergraphs",
*Graphs and Combinatorics*,**13**: 359–367, doi:10.1007/BF03353014, MR 1485929 - Naik, Ranjan N.; Rao, S. B.; Shrikhande, S. S.; Singhi, N. M. (1982), "Intersection graphs of
*k*-uniform hypergraphs",*European Journal of Combinatorics*,**3**: 159–172, doi:10.1016/s0195-6698(82)80029-2, MR 0670849 - Yu, Yanming (2006), "More Forbidden Minors for Wye-Delta-Wye Reducibility",
*The Electronic Journal of Combinatorics*,**13**Website