Birth Order

Alfred Adler was a psychotherapist and medical doctor from Austria. He also developed the school of individual psychology. Adler is known for many of his theories including the nursing theory birth order, inferiority complex and more.

Early Life

Adler was born in a small village on the outskirts of Vienna. He was his mother’s second child from seven. His family was Hungarian and of the Jewish faith. As he grew, Adler was a competitive figure to his older brother and popular within schools. At a young age, he developed rickets. Rickets is a disease that evolves from a lack of Vitamin D, phosphate or calcium in the body. These vitamins are essential to developing strong, healthy bones. Due to his disease, Adler did not walk until he was four. It was when he developed pneumonia at the same age that pushed him to his calling. He decided then that he wanted to be a doctor.


He began his studies at the University of Vienna where he studied to become an eye doctor. He continued his education into neurology and psychiatry. Adler began his medical career in the field of ophthalmology. It did not stick, however, and he soon opened a general practice office. Adler joined a group that included Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Stekel, and Rudolph Reitler. The meetings met on Wednesdays and soon involved many more members. Papers were presented to the group written by the members. These papers were then discussed among them.

Work in Psychology

In 1910 Adler became the president of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society. He was a member of the group since 1902. He continued in the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society until 1911. It was then that Adler and many of his followers split from Freud and his group to develop their own. Adler and Freud had many disagreements which pushed him to leave. They created the Society for Individual Psychology in 1912. He continued his career as a lecturer and speaker until the start of World War I. After the war, Adler moved to the United States and began teaching at the Long Island College of Medicine. Adler then became a professor at Columbia University. During the 1930s many of Adler’s clinics closed because he was of Jewish descent.


Adler soon after wrote his book The Neurotic Character. There were many different theories and ideas that he worked on in his lifetime. Adler believed that a person’s feelings, emotions, and behavior come from their experiences. He believed that it was a psychological force that tied these experiences to an individual. Adler’s theory in metaphysics helped Cognitive Therapy and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy.

Work in Personality Types

Adler created a series of personality types called typology. The sensitive type of person’s called the leaning or getting. People that hate to lose are called avoiding. People who change situations to their advantage are dominant. Outgoing people were socially useful. Adler believed that memories held high importance in a person’s life. Adler believed memories helped to determine a person’s lifestyle. He also believed that memories were reminders and not unintentional.

Inferiority Complex

Adler was also the creator of the inferiority complex. The inferiority complex gives credit to feelings. Tne inferiority complex also shows the importance of feelings in a person’s life. This complex also has a link to the development of an individual’s personality. Adler developed this theory based on a question. Adler asked why so many people did not gain fulfillment in life. He stated that people did not gain fulfillment. Fulfillment isn’t gained because they did not realize and succeed in their ideals. Adler believed that everyone was born with certain inferiorities. He believed that these inferiorities changed over time. There are two different ways that inferiority complexes affect children.

As a child, there are certain things they can’t do and it changes that inferiority. Children dream of being adults and have a desire to change the fact that they couldn’t do certain things before. As they get older they either learn how to do something new or accomplish the things they couldn’t. Some children don’t accomplish the things they desire. These children develop an “inferiority complex.” This complex will grow and cause the child to become overwhelmed and falter. This is when the child begins to have problems. Younger children tend to become insecure and timid. These children have lower self-esteem and become easier to manipulate and affect.

A second way that the inferiority complex affects children is the opposite. Instead of becoming shy and timid, a child can become overdramatic. In the times that the child becomes dramatic, there is a chance that they can become the classroom bully. They use the inferiority complex by making others look weaker and smaller than they are. These are also children who are striving for attention. These children can resort to using drugs or participating in criminal activities.

Birth Order

Adler developed the nursing theory of the birth order. The theory stated a person is their place within a family in regards to other siblings. His theory stated that an individual’s place in the family will influence their life. This influence on life will include their strengths and weaknesses. In Adler’s theory, he believed that the child who was born first would have a favored position. This was because the parents were new to parenthood. The second-born child would make the first child feel feelings of being left out. These feelings could grow to make the first-born feel lonely as well. This child would forever make the first child feel like they were not good enough. If a family had three siblings then there was a certain order and place for each of the children. The oldest he believed would suffer from addiction and have neurotic behaviors. This would come from the feeling of intense pressure being the oldest and the feeling of being left out. The first child would also be the one who would become incarcerated or institutionalized. The youngest child’s spoiled in today’s terms. This would be the child who would have problems with sociability and maintaining employment. The youngest child would shy away from responsibility causing them to fail. The middle child would be the one who would benefit the most. The middle child would not show signs of unneeded responsibility like the oldest. The middle child also wouldn’t show signs of overindulgence as the youngest. It is the middle child of the family who would rebel and also feel left out. It is also the middle child who would be the most successful. Alder himself was third in his family and considered a middle child. Adler developed the theory but never gave any proof of his beliefs.


Adler died in May of 1937. He was staying in Aberdeen, Scotland visiting the University of Aberdeen. Adler had collapsed and died on the street after murmuring his son’s name. His body underwent an autopsy later. It showed that he had degenerated muscle surrounding his heart making it weak. He was cremated in Edinburgh at the Warriston Crematorium. His ashes weren’t claimed until 2007 and buried in Vienna in 2011.


Adler developed many working theories involving psychology. His work has influenced many psychotherapists. Some who were influenced are Albert Elis, Abraham Maslow, Erich Fromm, and Karen Horney. He wrote many papers, articles, speeches, books, and other publications. These included The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology in 1927. The Alfred Adler Institute of Northwestern Washington published a compilation of his work. Another compilation named Superiority and Social Interest: A Collection of Later Writings was published in 1979. Adler was a man who came from a hard upbringing and told that he wouldn’t make it. He spent his time learning and studying to develop a better way of understanding psychology.