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Alfred Adler

Even if we know nothing about Alfred Adler's theory about birth order, we know something about Adler's theory about birth order. We all know, for example, about the problems faced by middle children, about how only children tend to be more self-sufficient and comfortable in leadership roles, how the baby of any family always gets away with more than anyone else. But to what extent are these simply stereotypes and to what extent does birth-order affect who we will be long after we have left our natal family? This paper examines Adler's original model before examining some more recent research on this topic.

Adler, who was born in Vienna and attended Vienna University, studied with Sigmund Freud before founding his own neo-Freudian school in 1911. Adler was - like Freud - interested in the development of the individual but - unlike Freud - was less interested in the ways in which sexual drives and sexual identity contributed to that development than with the role of other strong emotions. Adler was especially interested in the ways in which feelings of inferiority prompted various forms of behavior. Adler - who coined the term "inferiority complex" - argued that most psychopathological behavior arises from the combination of feelings of inferiority joined with psychological defense mechanisms that individuals adopted to compensate for their feelings of inferiority. In some measure, feelings of inferiority arise from the circumstances of birth order, Lundin, 1989).

Adler, whose model was based on the observation of his own patients and on inductive reasoning rather than formal experimentation, never argued that birth order alone was sufficient to explain a certain degree of inferiority or any other aspect of an individual's development. Rather, he argued that birth order was one of the most important influences on personality development in many people (and that it had some effect in all people) but that birth order had to be taken ...

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Alfred Adler. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 18:14, May 24, 2020, from