Adler was born February 7, 1870
in Vienna, Austria.
He was the second child in a family of six, his family was wealthy and
up in the suburbs of Vienna.
was ill most of his childhood and reported being closer to his father
he felt rejected by his mother. He also said that he felt unattractive
small growing up so he worked very hard to be popular in school to
for the rejection he felt from his family life. Adler was not a very
student at first, a teacher even suggested that his father take him out
school and make him a shoemaker’s apprentice. His father quickly
idea and expressed his disgust of the teacher to Alfred. Soon Alfred
show the teacher what he could do and soon he was first in his class
experienced very few difficulties as a student from then on. Alfred
from a near fatal spell of pneumonia at age four and said that he
wanted to be
a doctor; this is a goal he would pursue through college (Biographical
In 1888, he
began his studies at the University of Vienna Medical School. He
degree in 1895. He began practicing general medicine but specialized in
ophthalmology. In 1897, Alfred married Raissa Timofeivna Epstien. The
year was a busy one for Adler; he set up a private practice in Vienna
and also welcomed his first daughter, Valentine. Also in 1898, Adler
two articles in Austria’s “Medical News
Bulletin” and wrote his first book in which he sets up what will
main aspect of his school of thought: looking at man as a whole,
entity, reacting to his environment and physical endowment as opposed
to a sum
of instincts and other psychological manifestations. In 1901 his second
Alexandra is born (Boeree 1997).
1902, as well as publishing two
more articles in the “Medical News
Bulletin” he was also one of the few people who reacted favorably
Freud’s book on dream analysis, which led to Freud sending him a hand
postcard inviting him to join the circle that met weekly at Freud’s
discuss new aspects of psychopathology. At this time Adler had begun
material on patients with physical handicaps, studying their organic
psychological reactions to them. It has also been suggested that since
office was near a circus and he treated many of those people, that made
interested in the unusual strengths and weaknesses of them and led to
insights into organ inferiorities and compensation. Although Freud and
would work closely over the next several years, their relationship was
personal (Alfred Adler 2001).
In 1904, along with the birth of his son Kurt,
he published one of his most important works, The Physician as Educator in
which he expressed his early interest in child guidance and education. The following year he published A Study
of Organ Inferiority this book
expressed the roots of Adler’s thinking about organ dialect as well as
overview of the human organ systems. Over the next several years, Adler
developing his personality theory that differed dramatically from
Adler disagreed with Freud’s emphasis on sexual factors. Adler’s idea
aggression drive for example, differed greatly from Freud’s sex drive
psychoanalytic theory. In 1909, his daughter Cornelia was born (Boeree
1910 Adler became President of
the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society through Freud’s appointment; Freud
would help to mend their increasingly bad relationship. However, it did
help because in 1911 the two parted ways for good in a bitter ending,
bad feelings of each other that they would readily discuss with others.
led Adler to form his own group which he first called The Society for
Psychoanalytic Inquiry, the name would later be changed to The Society
Individual Psychology (Biographical sketch 2005).
1912, Alder published his book, The Neurotic Constitution.
developed his concepts even more clearly, and he called his
system “Individual Psychology”. This term was sometimes misinterpreted;
refers to the indivisibility of the personality in its psychological
Individual psychology reflected his idea that people should viewed as a
rather than by their parts (Boeree 1997).
During World War I, Adler served as a
physician in the Austrian army. Prior to returning from the war he
numerous child guidance centers in Vienna.
Adler was invited to lecture at Columbia
in 1926. His lectures
and papers were very popular in America.
His lectures were overcrowded and he communicated as easily in English
did in German. Beginning in 1932, he held the first chair of visiting
of medical psychology at Long Island College of Medicine. From this
point on he
spent the academic year teaching in America
and only spent the summers in Vienna.
His family moved to the states to join him in 1935. When Adler was in Aberdeen,
to deliver a
lecture he collapsed in the street and died of heart failure on May 28, 1937 (Alfred Adler
publications and lectures contributed much to psychology’s history.
a single drive behind all of our behavior and experience. When his
evolved into its most mature form, he defined this drive as the
perfection. Individual Psychology was Adler’s social psychological
minimized the influence of sex on personality and he focused on the
rather than the unconscious. He also believed that our plans for the
affected us, and that striving for goals influenced our present
also differed from Freud
because he believed there was no biological drive for penis envy by
believed that this was a myth invented by men to feel more superior,
also believed in equality for the sexes. Adler proposed that
feelings are a motivating force in a person’s behavior. This led to the
development of the inferiority complex which people develop when they
compensate for inferior feelings; this complex leaves people incapable
coping with problems in life. Adler believed that the drive for
spread across the cultures of the world, however we all strive for this
different ways. This is our style of life, which is fixed by age four
(Biographical sketch 2005).
was also interested in
children’s relationships between their personality and birth order. He
discovered that depending on whether children were born first, middle
they had varying methods of coping and attitudes toward life. He
the child born second were better adjusted than the first born or
also believed that because only children were the center of attention
family, they may have trouble adjusting in the outside world where this
the case. This concept of birth order has since been studied
(Biographical sketch 2005).
theories of Adler were accepted
by those who were no longer satisfied by Freud’s theories that
around sexual forces and experiences in childhood. Although many of
theories were criticized it was also apparent that he had a great