Adriean Mancillas: Only Children Are Not Alone in Neuroses
Adriean Mancillas, associate professor, Graduate Education and coordinator, School Counseling Program,
has had her article, “Challenging the stereotypes about only children: A review of the literature and
implications for practice” published in the summer issue of the Journal of Counseling & Development, which
is the branch journal of the American Counseling Association (ACA).
Mancillas focuses on how society at large, including mental health professionals, continue to have a negative
bias about only children as though they are destined to be maladjusted and spoiled merely because they have no
“The research does not support this to be true yet the bias persists nonetheless,” she says. “It is an important
area to be researched because it affects millions of people making family planning decisions as well as professionals
who work with children such as counselors and teachers who are supposed to be objective in determining children's
The article was also referenced in Counseling Today as a must-read for counselors. On the same topic of birth
order, Mancillas was interviewed earlier in the year by Counseling Today, specifically regarding how birth order
can be useful for understanding clients' perspectives, as well as how it can be misused.
“Although many clinicians, myself included, believe in the utility and importance of birth order in understanding
human behavior, it is not that valid a construct in predicting behavior,” she says. “The important caveat in
applying birth order within counseling practice is to avoid falling upon the stereotypes that exist, such as the
belief that last-borns are babied or that only children are maladjusted. If a middle child really did feel lost
in his or her family, it is not because that is the experience common to all middle borns, but an experience subjectively
and clinically important to that individual client.”
An active member of the ACA and the American Psychological Association, Mancillas points out the advantages to the
study of birth order as one of the mainstays of popular psychology.
“More people are considering the importance of the influence of family roles, including birth order positions,
upon individual development,” she says. “Birth order can be a critical piece of information regarding a client's
place and role within the family system.
Helping clients understand how their position or order within the family has influenced their development can
contribute to a deeper and more comprehensive understanding of how they relate to others, motivations, and
interpersonal and intrapersonal dynamics. For example, a middle child who may have felt lost among a large family
could adopt attention seeking behaviors or conversely remain more quiet and unobtrusive with others.”
Mancillas has presented her research on birth order has been focused on only children. She has made national
presentations on her findings to the ACA and locally to the Adlerian Society of Southern California.
- Joanie Harmon