Theories of Personality 9th Edition

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92 Part II Psychodynamic Theories

second child, however, does not develop in either of these two directions. Instead,
the secondborn child matures toward moderate competitiveness, having a healthy
desire to overtake the older rival. If some success is achieved, the child is likely to
develop a revolutionary attitude and feel that any authority can be challenged. Again,
children’s interpretations are more important than their chronological position.
Youngest children, Adler believed, are often the most pampered and, conse-
quently, run a high risk of being problem children. They are likely to have strong
feelings of inferiority and to lack a sense of independence. Nevertheless, they
possess many advantages. They are often highly motivated to exceed older siblings
and to become the fastest runner, the best musician, the most skilled athlete, or the
most ambitious student.
Only children are in a unique position of competing, not against brothers and
sisters, but against father and mother. Living in an adult world, they often develop
an exaggerated sense of superiority and an inflated self-concept. Adler (1931)
stated that only children may lack well-developed feelings of cooperation and
social interest, possess a parasitic attitude, and expect other people to pamper
and  protect them. Typical positive and negative traits of oldest, second, youngest,
and only children are shown in Table 3.2.

Early Recollections

To gain an understanding of patients’ personality, Adler would ask them to reveal
their early recollections (ERs). Although he believed that the recalled memories
yield clues for understanding patients’ style of life, he did not consider these memories

Siblings may feel superior or inferior and may adopt different attitudes toward the world depending
in part on their order of birth. © Design Pics/Don Hammond
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