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Alfred Adler
Alfred Adler (1870-1937) Austrian psychiatrist.jpg
Alfred Adler
Born
Alfred Adler

(1870-02-07)7 February 1870
Rudolfsheim near Vienna, Austria-Hungary (now Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, Vienna, Austria)
Died 28 May 1937(1937-05-28) (aged 67)
Nationality Austrian
Alma mater University of Vienna
Known for Individual psychology
Superiority complex
Inferiority complex
Style of life
Spouse(s) Raissa Epstein
Children Alexandra Adler, Kurt Adler, Valentine Adler, Cornelia Adler
Scientific career
Fields Psychotherapist, psychiatrist

Alfred Adler; (7 February 1870 – 28 May 1937) was an Austrian medical doctor, psychotherapist, and founder of the school of individual psychology. His emphasis on the importance of feelings of inferiority, the inferiority complex, is recognized as an isolating element which plays a key role in personality development. Alfred Adler considered human beings as an individual whole, therefore he called his psychology "Individual Psychology" (Orgler 1976).

Adler was the first to emphasize the importance of the social element in the re-adjustment process of the individual and who carried psychiatry into the community. A Review of General Psychology survey, published in 2002, ranked Adler as the 67th most eminent psychologist of the 20th century.

Early life

Alfred Adler was born at Mariahilfer Straße 208 in Rudolfsheim, then a village on the western fringes of Vienna, and today part of Rudolfsheim-Fünfhaus, the 15th district of the city. He was second of the seven children of a Hungarian-born, Jewish grain merchant and his wife. Alfred's younger brother died in the bed next to him, when Alfred was only three years old. Alfred was an active, popular child and an average student who was also known for his competitive attitude toward his older brother, Sigmund.

Early on, he developed rickets, which kept him from walking until he was four years old. At the age of four, he developed pneumonia and heard a doctor say to his father, "Your boy is lost". At that point, he decided to be a physician. He was very interested in the subjects of psychology, sociology and philosophy. After studying at University of Vienna, he specialized as an eye doctor, and later in neurology and psychiatry.

Basic principles

Adlerian-based scholarly, clinical and social practices focus on the following topics:

  • Social interest and community feeling
  • Holism and the creative self
  • Fictional finalism, teleology, and goal constructs
  • Psychological and social encouragement
  • Inferiority, superiority and compensation
  • Life style/style of life
  • Early recollections (a projective technique)
  • Family constellation and birth order
  • Life tasks and social embeddedness
  • The conscious and unconscious realms
  • Private logic and common sense (based in part on Kant's "sensus communis")
  • Symptoms and neurosis
  • Safeguarding behaviour
  • Guilt and guilt feelings
  • Socratic questioning
  • Dream interpretation
  • Child and adolescent psychology
  • Democratic approaches to parenting and families
  • Adlerian approaches to classroom management
  • Leadership and organisational psychology

Personal life

During his college years, he had become attached to a group of socialist students, among which he had found his wife-to-be, Raissa Timofeyewna Epstein, an intellectual and social activist from Russia studying in Vienna. They married in 1897 and had four children, two of whom became psychiatrists. Their children were writer, psychiatrist and Socialist activist Alexandra Adler; psychiatrist Kurt Adler; writer and activist Valentine Adler; and Cornelia "Nelly" Adler.

Author and journalist Margot Adler (1946-2014) was Adler's granddaughter.

Artistic and cultural references

The two main characters in the novel Plant Teacher engage in a session of Adlerian lifestyle interpretation, including early memory interpretation.


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