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According to Adlerian counselling, humans are mainly motivated by social interest, meaning people feel connected to society that treats them as equal and they see themselves as belonging to society. People who possess social interest are responsible for themselves and those in their society. They have an opportunity to change their beliefs and their behaviour. Adler considered that each person has chosen to be the person that he or he is; we are the authors of our own creations of ourselves. People can change if they wish. However, change is not easy for an adult; we are all good at being our old selves and will have to struggle at being a different version of ourselves.


Teleological comes from the Greek word teleo which means goal. Adler felt that human behaviour was guided by a purpose. To understand human nature, you have to know what is guiding a particular behaviour. For example a person who is always late. What is the purpose of being late? Perhaps the person is often late to show others that he or she is busy. Alternatively, the person wants to show to others he or she is in control and nobody can him or her be on time. Adler calls the beliefs that underlie people’s goals of behaviour as private logic; to the person it is logical to behave in such a way.


Another major idea of Adler was his emphasis on birth order. Birth order is the ordinal position an individual is born into his or her family. Adler proposed that people who share the same ordinal birth positions share similar characteristics. This is because the psychological situation of each child is different from each other depending on his or her birth order. Adler focuses on five positions with each sharing similar unique characteristics: the oldest, the youngest, the second born, the middle, and the only child. Birth order and the interpretation of this position influence one’s interactions within the family and with others outside the family. Individuals tend to form their unique personality from the first years within the family, reacting to their siblings and family dynamics. Thus, the family environment is also seen as important to a person’s development, especially the first six years of the life. A negative family environment may be rejective, authoritarian, suppressive, materialistic, overprotective or pitying. A positive family environment may be democratic, accepting, open, authoritative, and social.

Birth order

General Influence on Personality Development

Oldest child

First child often receives much attention and is lavished with love. She is seen as unique and special. She tends to be dependable, hard working and try to keep ahead. When the second child arrives, the first child finds herself dethroned and slightly neglected. She is no longer the centre of attention and must share the spotlight with the newcomer.

Second born

This child finds that she is an addition to the family, and share the spotlight with another person that comes before her. She strives to gain attention and to be better than the older sibling. She competes with the oldest, striving for achievement in different areas. The second born is often the opposite of the first-born.

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