Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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82 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

Origins of Social Interest

Social interest is rooted as potentiality in everyone, but it must be developed before
it can contribute to a useful style of life. It originates from the mother-child relation-
ship during the early months of infancy. Every person who has survived infancy was
kept alive by a mothering person who possessed some amount of social interest. Thus,
every person has had the seeds of social interest sown during those early months.
Adler believed that marriage and parenthood is a task for two. However, the
two parents may influence a child’s social interest in somewhat different ways.
The mother’s job is to develop a bond that encourages the child’s mature social
interest and fosters a sense of cooperation. Ideally, she should have a genuine and
deep-rooted love for her child—a love that is centered on the child’s well-being,
not on her own needs or wants. This healthy love relationship develops from a true
caring for her child, her husband, and other people. If the mother has learned to
give and receive love from others, she will have little difficulty broadening her
child’s social interest. But if she favors the child over the father, her child may
become pampered and spoiled. Conversely, if she favors her husband or society,
the child will feel neglected and unloved.
The father is a second important person in a child’s social environment. He
must demonstrate a caring attitude toward his wife as well as to other people. The
ideal father cooperates on an equal footing with the child’s mother in caring for
the child and treating the child as a human being. According to Adler’s (1956)
standards, a successful father avoids the dual errors of emotional detachment and
paternal authoritarianism. These errors may represent two attitudes, but they are
often found in the same father. Both prevent the growth and spread of social

Both mother and father can contribute powerfully to the developing social interest of their children.
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