Alfred Adler was a physician and psychologist who created the Individual Psychology movement. Adler wrote 19 books and many articles and papers. He gave numerous lectures and demonstrations internationally. He was born in Rudolfsheim, Austria, and he had rickets as a young child. In his later description of the development of personality, physiologic and environmental conditions that increased a young child’s felt inferiority were seen as pivotal. He also had an older, healthy, and competitive brother, Sigmund, with whom he experienced intense rivalry for their parents’ attention. This struggle sensitized him to the significance of family constellation for the child’s developing style of life, which is one of the basic tenets of Individual Psychology.
His difficulties with math during his early schooling helped him to understand that teachers should focus on children’s assets rather than their deficits. Adler believed that parents should create a democratic and encouraging atmosphere for children in which neither generation nor gender is used to create statuses of above or below. Adler was the first psychologist to acknowledge the significance of power in both parent-child and marital relations. He thought that males and females, as well as adults and children, should be seen as social equals. Children then could be educated to find active and constructive ways to strive for mastery and to develop social interest. Social interest requires a tendency toward cooperation rather than competition and a focus on contribution to others rather than the status of self. He saw all behavior as purposive and believed that behaviors seen as problematic or symptomatic often were mistaken attempts to compensate for felt inferiority and powerlessness. Motives for such behaviors usually remain outside of the awareness of the individual. Adler’s most enduring contributions to child development have been in the areas of parent education, teacher training, and psychotherapy.
One of the most widely utilized programs for parent education, Systematic Training for Effective Parenting, is based on the principles of Individual Psychology. He believed that “anyone can learn anything” and developed teacher training approaches to provide the understandings and skills needed by educators to create classroom environments that were democratic and encouraged children’s self-confidence. He moved psychotherapy with children from an approach of working with the individual child to one that involved working with both with the child and parents. His founding of child guidance centers had international impact and greatly influenced contemporary approaches in both the training and practice of psychotherapists.
- Adler, A. (1925). The practice and theory of individual psychology (P. Radlin, T). London: Routledge Kegan Paul.
- Adler Graduate School, http://www.alfredadler.edu
- Ansbacher, L., & Ansbacher, R. R. (Eds.). (1956). The individual psychology of Alfred Adler: A systematic presentation in selections from his writings. New York: Harper Torchbooks.
- Hoffman, (1994). The drive for self: Alfred Adler and the founding of individual psychology. Reading, MA: AddisonWesley.