Alfred Adler has been one of the pioneers of psychoanalysis, although he ventured away from some of Sigmund Freud’s theories. It was due to their difference in ideas and contextual analysis that the separation from the Psychoanalytic school happened. Adler created his own school of psychology which he called “Individual Psychology”. In this group, the concern focused on the so-called inferiority complex that humans possess (Ansbacher, 1964).
With respect to Adler’s theory, humans are originally weak and helpless. Humans are born without knowledge and must always be guided by those who are “superior” or by someone who is older (Ansbacher, 1964).
Because of this, children strive to learn further and try in every way to exceed or at least achieve the same level as those people whom they perceive to be superior to them. This is what Adler speculated as to the “inferiority complex”, the driving force that fuels a human’s emotions, actions, and reasons (Mosak, 1999).
According to Adler those people who strive to become the best or those who try in every way to succeed are people who have a very high inferiority complex, while those who are easy-going are more likely less affected by the inferiority complex (Mosak, 1999).
However, a very strong inferiority complex might also have a negative effect on a particular person, most specifically when the person has failed in most of his/her endeavors. These experiences might leave the person feeling wrecked, hopeless, and unmotivated to strive towards future goals because of the overwhelming failure that the person has encountered.
Adler supported Freud’s hypothesis concerning the effects of parenting styles on the life of the person. Adler hypothesized that there are two parenting styles, pampering and neglect, which affect the life of an adult person.
Pampering would be the process in which the parent gives too much attention to the child and protects the child so that the child is presented with an ideal world. This does not help the child develop into a full social individual. Due to this kind of treatment, the child might develop a severe inferiority complex and might be shocked when faced with the realities of life on their own. (Drescher & Stone, 2004)
The child might not be able to perform well on his/her own because he/she was used to the experience of having his/her parents on his/her side whenever problems arose. Also, the child would be doubtful not only of his/her abilities but also of the decisions that he/she makes.
With regards to the neglectful parenting style, the child is said to be exposed to all the extremes and problems that the world can offer. Since the child was left alone, he/she might be forced to struggle on his/her own which leads to his/her mistrust of the people around him/her. Because of this, the child reared under a neglectful parenting style finds it very hard to create or build relationships with other people especially with his/her peers. (MacDonald, 1971)
Therefore, Alfred Adler believed that parents shall make sure that the child was protected from the evils of the world at the same time the parents are obligated to present to the child the harsh realities of life. (Stein, 2007) Simply put, the child must be protected but that does not mean that the parent would deny them the knowledge and opportunity of knowing how to solve problems independently.
Aside from parenting, another aspect that greatly affects a child’s performance in his lifetime according to Adler is his/her birth order. Indeed, this assumption has since garnered criticism and support from psychologists and social scientists.
According to this “theory”, the birth order of the child determines how he views himself as a person with respect to how the child is treated in his family. It is also the factor that is responsible for the behavior and personality of the person in his adult life. (Stein, 2007)
According to Adler’s theory, the firstborn of the family is treated with the utmost care and spoiled before the other siblings arrived. The situation for this child starts out with excited parents and the child usually has everything he/she needs. When the younger sibling is conceived there is a sudden shift of attention of the parents. The new baby now receives more attention than the firstborn child. Thus the firstborn, in Adler’s theory, tries his/her best to regain this attention. The child desperately seeks the return of his/her parents’ full love and interest. (Stein, 2007)
Most firstborns feel dethroned by their younger siblings because they now have to share everything with the next child; thus, a firstborn learns to share. Also, the firstborn are given more responsibility than the other children, since they are the eldest; this could cause them to develop an authoritarian persona. (Mosak, 1999)
The parents’ expectations for the firstborn are usually very high; they are pushed into the situation of being responsible and setting an example for their younger siblings. These experiences might lead the firstborn child to develop the qualities of a good leader, although usually firstborn children have lower self-confidence than other children. (Stein, 2007)
Middle children do not encounter the same expectations and are not as spoiled as the firstborn; however, they still get a portion of the attention that the firstborn child enjoys. What makes being the middle child interesting is that they not only experience a drive to be superior to the first child, but also must compete for attention and status among the younger siblings. These experiences could cause inferiority with reference to their older siblings but superiority with reference to their younger siblings. (Stein, 2007)