Alfred Adler’s Theory of PersonalityJune 26, 2021
Alfred Adler’s Theory of Personality states that, unlike the personality structure that emerged with the conflict of id, ego and superego put forth by Freud, people have innate positive motives and they strive to take themselves to the highest levels and be perfect.
In fact, Adler states that all people have an innate sense of inferiority stemming from being dependent on a stronger parent than they are, and argues that the individual strives for superiority in order to overcome this feeling of inferiority throughout his life. He argues that the physical weaknesses or losses experienced by individuals with the effort for superiority lead the way to make more effort and reach perfection, and he describes this situation as a compensation.
For example, blind Ray Charles is a world-class singer, Franklin Roosevelt, who suffered from polio in his childhood, is one of the important figures who left his mark on the 20th century.
Personal life experience has a great impact on Adler’s theory, who himself died of pneumonia at an early age. In some cases, the excessive feeling of inferiority can cause the individual to feel helpless and develop an inferiority complex. While the feeling of inferiority leads people to strive for superiority and to compensate for the deficiencies, the inferiority complex, on the contrary, can push the person to despair.
Adler emphasizes the influence of the family on personality development in the early years of personality development. The personality structure of the children of families who take excessive care of their children and pamper them or provide excessive protection will be shaped according to this situation. Adler states that neglect at a young age lies at the root of some personality problems.
Another factor affecting personality and personality behaviors is birth order. The first, middle or youngest children in the family show different personality development characteristics.
For example; First children tend to be pampered as the family’s first pupil. But after the second child is born, the old interest in them fades. This situation leads to a stronger feeling of inferiority in the child. For this reason, Adler emphasizes that problem children emerge from the first children.
Adler emphasizes that middle siblings show a strong superiority effort because they are not as strong and fast as their older siblings born before them, so they make more effort to close this gap and they are more successful people (Burger, 2006).
Mentioning that younger siblings also develop a sense of inferiority because everyone around them is stronger than them, Adler also mentions that younger siblings also experience their own problems with being pampered.
Although Adler’s evaluations of birth order from his theory often have basic features, they have not gained much validity since they do not fully comply with each individual and family structure.
According to Adler, it is important for personality development that people try to overcome their feelings of inferiority based on reality or not. The fact that people have the power to somehow determine their destiny is important in terms of leading the theory to the humanistic psychology approach.
Prepared by: Sociologist Ömer YILDIRIM
Source: Omer YILDIRIM’s Personal Lecture Notes. Atatürk University Sociology Department 1st Year “Introduction to Philosophy” and 2nd, 3rd, 4th Grade “History of Philosophy” Lecture Notes (Ömer YILDIRIM); Open Education Philosophy Textbook