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Alfred Adler



Adler, Alfred (1870-1937), an Austrian psychiatrist, developed important theories concerning the motivation of human behaviour. According to Adler, the major force of all human activity is a striving from a feeling of inferiority toward superiority and perfection. Adler at first referred to this force as a drive for power. He later called the force a striving for superiority. Adler termed his school of thought individual psychology. Today, this school of psychological thought is frequently referred to as Adlerian psychology. 

Adler taught that everyone experiences feelings of inferiority. He believed that each person strives to overcome such feelings according to a unique set of goals. Every individual, he said, also has a unique way of attempting to achieve the goals. Adler used the term style of life for the person's goals and methods of pursuing them. He claimed that the style of life becomes established by the age of 4 or 5. He also believed that an individual's self-image and opinion of the world reflect the person's style of life. 

The importance of social forces in determining behaviour was emphasized by Adler. He believed that each person is born with a trait called social interest. This ability enables the individual to relate to other people and to place the good of society above selfish interests. Many of Adler's ideas have become part of the theory and practice of psychiatry. 

Adler was born near Vienna, Austria. He received his MD degree from the University of Vienna in 1895. Adler was an eye specialist and a neurologist before becoming a psychiatrist. From 1902 to 1911, he worked with the famous Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. Between 1919 and 1934, Adler established child guidance clinics in Vienna. He trained teachers, worked with parents, and supervised teachers' clinical activities with disturbed children. Adler moved to New York City in 1934.


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